Home Fare Hikes The fare side of the Doomsday scenario

The fare side of the Doomsday scenario

by Benjamin Kabak

While the Daily News may have scooped the rest of the New York papers with the news on the MTA’s planned extensive service cuts, The Times one-upped the tabloid today. The Gray Lady’s got the fare information, and it ain’t pretty

William Neuman details the planned fare hikes that will compliment the service reductions. While Neuman doesn’t mention the reported $3 base fare, he tosses around a 23 percent fare hike across the board. Yikes.

Anyway, the details:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will seek to increase fare and toll revenues by 23 percent next year to plug a yawning budget gap, according to a person briefed on the plan…The result is straightforward and grim: Many riders will have to pay more to wait longer for trains and buses that are more crowded.

The fare and toll increase is intended to raise about $600 million next year, about half of the $1.2 billion deficit projected for next year. The increase would go into effect in June or July.

The authority will outline the budget proposals at a meeting of its board on Thursday, but officials said they had not yet worked out details of how the changes would affect different types of MetroCard fares on subways and buses, as well as fares on the commuter railroads.

It appears likely, however, that the base subway and bus fare would increase to at least $2.50, from $2, and that a monthly unlimited-ride MetroCard could rise to about $100.

I’ll be unveiling a second iteration of last year’s MetroCard Challenge later today to see how this move will impact me (and hopefully you, the user of a 30-day Unlimited Ride MetroCard). Needless to say, while the average price per ride will remain a good deal, no one will be happy about having to fork over $100 for a MetroCard while suffering through potential decreases in service.

For now, we can’t do much to assess this news. The MTA officials haven’t yet hammered out the details of a fare hike. But it is likely that users of the heavily-discounted Unlimited Ride cards will face steep increases as will bridge-and-tunnel users and pay-per-ride MetroCard swipes.

What this latest development ensures is that it will get ugly before it gets better. Already, the TV news stations are cornering disgruntled passengers who seem too willing to blame the MTA instead of elected officials who continue to withhold funding for the MTA. It’s time to reframe that debate and hold the officials who control the purse strings responsible for this mess.

Furthermore, the MTA seems to project the fare hikes to cover just half of the projected 2009 deficit. The other half will have to come from somewhere. Can service cuts and personnel decisions cover the rest? We’ll find out on Thursday.

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16 comments

Todd November 19, 2008 - 9:05 am

Service cuts are not the answer. If anything, service needs to be increased. Without service, people can’t get to work. It’s that simple. Raise the fares, raise the tolls, raise taxes, but do not cut service.

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Marc Shepherd November 19, 2008 - 9:26 am

I agree with Todd. I’d rather see a $3.00 base fare with service maintained or increased, than a $2.50 fare with the Draconian cuts that are now being proposed.

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Mr. Eric November 19, 2008 - 9:37 am

I also agree. Put into effect the promised service enhncements that went along with the last fare hike like the R going to CTL 24/7

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digamma November 19, 2008 - 10:26 am

This is to cover a $1.2 billlion deficit?

How much is GM getting, again?

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Kid Twist November 19, 2008 - 10:55 am

GM may get nothing. Because papering over GM’s losses with cash only postpones reckoning with the underlying problems. Just as covering the MTA’s current shortfall doesn’t solve the structural problems that led to this crisis in the first place.

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Marc Shepherd November 19, 2008 - 11:16 am

At the moment, GM’s bailout plea is falling on deaf ears. But the argument they’re making is that a GM bankruptcy would put 3 million people out of work, due to the interlocking dependency of dealers, parts manufacturers, and so forth. Whether that’s true is debatable, but that’s the argument.

In comparison to that, the MTA’s crisis is local. And because the MTA is owned by the public, the politicians who run it have options GM doesn’t have: raising fares, taxes, or both. If the State of New York is unwilling to make the tough decisions to keep its transit system running, why should the Federal government pitch in?

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Alon Levy November 19, 2008 - 2:38 pm

Because a recession is the worst time to raise fares and cut service. Now that the people are poorer than they were two years ago, they’re asked to pay more for less?

Standard Keynesian economics dictates deficit spending for stimulation during a recession, in order to inflate the economy, and surpluses during expansion, in order to deflate it.

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Marc Shepherd November 20, 2008 - 8:57 am

Maybe, but there aren’t enough Keynsians in Washington to support a handout for NYCT.

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Alon Levy November 20, 2008 - 12:02 pm

Maybe. Or maybe not – politicians like it when economists tell them that now’s the time to splurge.

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Todd November 19, 2008 - 1:40 pm

I’m convinced that the government is trying to scare the UAW by letting it seem like the government will let the automakers fail. They will force the unions to make saving concessions if their only other option is complete liquidation of the company including the loss of all benefits and severance packages. I know the pro-union guys on here won’t like that idea, but it might be better then losing everything.

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Alon Levy November 19, 2008 - 2:40 pm

Why would they do it? Obama isn’t anti-union. He and Biden are pro-train, though.

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rhywun November 19, 2008 - 10:26 am

Seems to me that draconian cuts are a “threat” of sorts to the various levels of government to get them to pay up already. I’ve seen the same thing happen time and again over the years. They are required to balance their budgets, and they know that massive cuts are neither feasible when the system is already at capacity nor politically desirable. Nor is a huge fare increase (greater than say 10 percent) politically desirable. I’m not worried. Whatever comes of this will be greatly less draconian than they’re making it out to be.

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Marc Shepherd November 19, 2008 - 12:48 pm

That’s true to an extent, but service cuts do happen sometimes. It probably won’t be as bad as the gloom-and-doom scenario we’re reading about now, but I’d be surprised not to see at least some service reductions.

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Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog » Blog Archive » » The $30 billion elephant in the room November 20, 2008 - 1:13 am

[…] MTA has a problem. And no, I’m not talking about the duel threats of steep fare hikes and rampant service cuts. Instead, I’m talking about the capital campaign. The cash-strapped […]

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Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog » Blog Archive » » A plan, but no one to trumpet it December 1, 2008 - 12:07 am

[…] albeit modestly, without cutting service. Considering all of the talk surrounding the MTA’s Doomsday proposal, Ravitch’s all-encompassing plan seems like a beacon of […]

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Peter December 2, 2008 - 12:30 pm

Reality is, the MTA subway fare is the best deal the city has to offer.
For 2 bucks crossing the entire city. Comparing with other world cities its a real bargain, for a high priced city like NY, where people spend $$$ to drive and park in Manhattan. I wish people would say: Improve the service and raise the fare to 2.50. Stop complaining, folks.

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