Fare Hike ’13: Picking your poisonBy
There’s a fare hike heading our way, and absent a miracle in Albany, there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it. The Straphangers have rightly pleaded with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to do something, and The Times did the same in Saturday’s paper. This growing chorus of voices calling for more state support may be able to avert a steep hike in 2015, but there’s not enough time for the notoriously slow-moving state political machine to kick in gear before the MTA has to start generating more revenue.
So we, the riding public, are left with trying to make the best of a bad situation. On Monday morning, the MTA will officially unveil the various proposals all aimed at generating a few hundred million dollars a year more, and throughout November, the authority will hear public feedback. Oftentimes, those meetings devolve into a mess of public complaints against the MTA and little of substance concerning the fare hike proposals. But there’s a lot riding on this year’s hike. (Ed. Note: The four scenarios outlined below are confirmed as the ones under consideration by the MTA. Public hearings will take place during the second week in November.)
As I’ve mentioned before, how the MTA approaches this hike will tell us a lot about who’s paying more. Will the MTA once again go after unlimited ride card users or try to bump up the pay-per-ride costs? I looked at this issue last week, and it’s not an easy one. The claims that a pay-per-ride bump would negatively impact those who can least afford to pay are partially borne out by demographics numbers, but even that impact may be overstated. Still, it’s a consideration.
As we wait out the official announcement, enough leaked stories — designed to gauge rider feedback — have led us to know something about the looming fare hike. So from information gleaned from various articles, let’s look at the competing proposals:
|Scenario||Base Fare||Bonus||7-Day Card||30-Day Card|
As I’ve mentioned before, I’d prefer scenario 1, but that’s because I’m a 30-day card user who enjoys the benefits of pre-tax Metrocards each month. According to numbers provided to me by the Straphangers, such a scenario results in a $60 annual increase in transit spending for 30-day card users, a $50 bump for 7-day card users and a whopping $208 increase for pay-per-ride users. That’s a disparate impact if ever I saw one.
Scenarios 2 and 3 lead to considerably more spending by everyone. Under 2, 30-day users would be on the hook for over $200 more per year, and the break-even point would jump to 59 rides, an all-time high. With no increase in the base fare and a small decrease in bonus, pay-per-ride users would likely have to spend around $20 more per year. That’s hardly equitable either.
The new proposal — Scenario No. 4 above — comes to us from today’s Daily News. In his piece, Pete Donohue notes that MTA officials are not likely to eliminated the discount, as, per one Transit official, “the reaction [was] very cool.” With a seven percent bonus at $2.50 per swipe, the effective fare would be around $2.32, and thus, under proposal 4, the break-even point for a $112 30-day card would be 49 rides, one less than the current 50-ride mark on the $104 cards. Signs are, as Donohue notes, pointing the way toward such a scenario.
But let’s toss this one wide open. Though no one wants a fare hike, pick your poison. I’ve opened the poll below and am curious to see how SAS readers would go if given the choice. It might not be ideal, but that’s where we are today.