Decade Retrospective: Subway fare increasesBy
Over at amNew York today, Heather Haddon takes a look back at the decade that was in subway news. She hits on all the big stories from the debut of the V line in 2001 to the major ongoing construction projects along Second Ave. and the 7 line to the 9/11 impact on the subways to the transit strike and the MTA’s economic woes. Her number one story is of course the numerous fare hikes we’ve lived through this decade.
The MTA’s mountain of debt finally caught up with it this decade. As new funding fell through in 2000 and revenue declined in the later part of the 2000’s, the agency turned to straphangers to bear part of the burden with four fare hikes, including back-to-back increases in 2008 and 2009. “The system is always starved for money. That’s not the right way to run a transit system,” said MTA board member Andrew Albert.
NYC Transit riders now pick up the tab for 43 percent of operating expenses, the second highest rate in the nation. Fares will increase again in 2011 and 2013.
The recent fare hikes are fresh in our minds, and as the MTA struggles to close a gap, the specter of future hikes loom. Even without the upcoming 2011 hike, the fares could become the latest casualty in the MTA’s fiscal crisis. But just how far have they come since January 1, 2000 when the decade dawned? Take a look:
|1/1/00-5/3/03||$1.50||10% min. $15||$63.00||NA||$17.00||$4.00|
|5/3/03-2/21/05||$2.00||20% min. $10||$70.00||NA||$17.00||$4.00|
|2/22/05-3/1/08||$2.00||20% min. $10||$76.00||NA||$24.00||$7.00|
|3/2/08-6/27/09||$2.00||15% min. $7||$81.00||$47.00||$25.00||$7.50|
|6/28/09-??||$2.25||15% min. $8||$89.00||$51.50||$27.00||$8.25|
What is notable about these fare increases is how the Unlimited Ride cards have far outstripped inflation. The 30-Day Unlimited card cost $63 in 2000; that’s the equivalent of $79 today. The $4 Fun Pass, a good deal in 2000 but nearly useless today, would cost just $5 now if the fares were adjusted only for inflation. Even the base fare — $1.50 in 2000 — would be just $1.88 if the MTA adjusted fares to count for inflation.
In the end, we know that the MTA has few choices when it comes to raising revenue. The authority can cut services or they can raise the fares. For the last ten years, the agency has avoided service cuts while boosting fares by around 40-55 percent. With the current service cuts threatening to slice and dice our transit network, we may be telling a different tale in ten years. Personally, I’d take the fare hikes over service cuts in any decade.