Fare Hike ’13: An unlimited bump or a higher baseBy
In 1998, when the unlimited monthly MetroCard made its New York City debut, the MTA priced this item at $63. In the intervening 14 years, the price has risen by $41, and today, that same card costs a cool $104. The MTA has been particularly aggressive in rising the prices for these unlimited ride cards in order to combat declining revenue per trip, but these cards increase subway ridership overall. It’s quite the catch-22, and it’s rearing its head once again.
A few weeks ago, as the MTA leaked word of its looming fare hike plan, it seemed as monthly cards would largely be spared while the base fare would see a big jump and all pay-per-ride discounts would be eliminated. Now, in the face of an outcry over that proposal, a second plan has seemingly emerged that would spike unlimited ride cards considerably. The Daily News, proclaiming obviously that a fare hike will “hit riders hard,” has more:
Bus and subway riders would pay as much as $125 for a monthly MetroCard — a $21 increase — under one of four fare-hike schemes the MTA is mulling, the Daily News has learned. This proposal would increase the price of an unlimited-ride weekly MetroCard to $34 — a $5 boost — and reduce the Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard bonus, sources said. But it would leave the base subway and bus fare unchanged at $2.25, sources said…
The MTA has fashioned four fare-hike scenarios in advance of public hearings set for next month. Each scheme would generate $232 million in additional revenue from bus and subway riders. Two of the proposals would keep the base fare at $2.25. One of these would reduce the Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard bonus from 7% to 5%, charge $34 for the weekly unlimited-ride MetroCard and $125 for the monthly travel pass. The second would ax the 7% MetroCard bonus altogether, increase the weekly MetroCard to $32 (up $3) and jack the monthly MetroCard to $119 (up $15).
As The News reported exclusively last month, the MTA also is considering two other proposals that would raise the base fare a quarter to $2.50. These 25-cent hike proposals would trigger additional fare changes to the MetroCard bonus and the time-based MetroCards.
It’s a bit unclear what the other two proposals look like. Last month, the same Daily News reported that one version of the fare hike would eliminate the bonus entirely while the base fare would jump to $2.50 and unlimited 7-day cards would bump up $1 and 30-day cards $5. It seems as though the MTA is now considering a proposal, mentioned above, to keep the fare at $2.25 while putting the revenue onus on unlimited card users instead.
For personal and policy reasons, I hate that idea. For the past few fare hikes, unlimited card users have gotten the shaft. I understand the MTA wants to recapture what they view as lost revenue from unlimited card riders, but the unlimiteds have also contributed to a marked increase in subway usage over the past two decades. Meanwhile, nearly 47 percent of subway riders turn to unlimited cards, and we shouldn’t be asked to foot the bill every time a fare hike comes along while pay-per-ride users get something of a pass.
It seems likely that the ultimate decision will be made during the fare hike hearings, but the trick is going to be weeding out the noise. Already, the Straphangers, for instance, are saying “enough is enough” when it comes to fare hikes, but short of asking Gov. Cuomo for money that doesn’t exist, they’re not pushing for any other revenue solution. Prices are going to go up; it’s a preordained conclusion. But doing so in a way that spreads the pain is key.