Earlier this week, Streetsblog and I received a PDF of information about the MTA’s demographics. The authority tracks the way people ride, what MetroCards they use and how often they swipe, but the materials aren’t readily available for the public. Check out Noah Kazis’ take here.
Throughout the lead-up to the fare hike, the MTA kept reinforcing the idea that a capped MetroCard would have little impact on the vast majority of riders. As the above graph shows, that would be the case. Only 7 percent of 30-day cards are used 91 times or more. Those passes are used, on average, 107 times, which doesn’t quite lend credence to the fact that fraud is widespread. Interestingly, approximately 25 percent of 30-day buyers don’t reach the breakeven point right now. Those folks are just wasting money.
Interestingly, we see similar trends with the seven-day cards as well. A higher percentage — 13 — are used 23 times or more, and those cards average around 27.5 swipes per seven days. Nearly 35 percent of those using the seven-day card do not reach the break-even point. It appears that a good number of NYC Transit riders should be using pay-per-ride cards but aren’t.
Next up comes a trove of demographics information the MTA collects through Customer Travel Surveys. (For an example, download this PDF.) Click the image below to enlarge.
We see here is a profile of the median transit rider. He or she makes $55,700 a year and is 43 years old. People who use the unlimited fare offerings do indeed make significantly more than those who do not. Generally, these numbers do not present a picture of people who own cars in New York City or make extensive use of autos. It certainly reinforces how Albany fails city residents when they take money from the MTA or force the authority to cut service, raise fares or both.
I have to believe, as Noah does at Streetsblog, that this is just the tip of the iceberg. We don’t yet know the profile of bus riders or bridge and tunnel users. The real issue though concerns what we make of it all. Should the MTA be making fare hike decisions based upon its demographic profiles? Should the authority do more to encourage unlimited card use? Should they better educate riders as to the break-even point of its MetroCard offerings? The possibilities are endless.