The MTA has, for better or worse, made a biennial habit out of fare hikes. As part of a master plan hatched a bunch of years ago, the MTA committed to raising the fares every two years in an effort to maintain steady revenue streams. Although the current fare hikes outpace inflation, the MTA is also working to overcome a significant fare decrease from the late 1990s brought about by the introduction of pay-per-ride discounts and unlimited MetroCards. On average, we pay less per ride today than we did in 1996.
The riding public — the folks that don’t pay much attention to the ins and outs of transit policies, politics and economics — will be caught off guard by the 2015 fare hike. Due to pressure from Gov. Andrew Cuomo who was trying to avoid any whiff of bad news in the lead-up to last week’s Election Day, the MTA has remained tight-lipped about the fact the fare hike is happening or any details regarding the proposals. Now that the Governor has assured himself of another four years of whatever he’s doing, the unofficial MTA news embargo can finally be lifted, and we can talk about good news such as higher subway fares for all!
Now, gone are the days that politicians lived and died by the nickel fare, but the fare hike process lends itself to a special set of outrage. The MTA is legally obligated to go through a public hearing process, and it’s largely a charade. People will express outrage over higher fares while probably bringing up two sets of books over and over again while politicians bemoan the system they refuse to support. The MTA raises the fares anyway, usually based upon plans drawn up months before.
So as we gear up for the hearings, what does the future hold? Pete Donohue, tell the audience what they’ve won:
The MTA has drafted two possible fare-hike schemes for bus and subway riders — one that keeps the $2.50 base fare stable and another that raises it by a quarter. But both models would increase the monthly MetroCard by $4.50. The two scenarios were fashioned in advance of public hearings that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will hold next month. The MTA board may not vote on a final package until January, but the increases would still go into effect as scheduled in March.
According to sources, the two fare-hike options are:
Option One: The base fare would remain at $2.50, but the 5% bonus would get trimmed. The 7-Day MetroCard goes up a buck, to $31, while the 30-Day MetroCard rises $4.50, to $116.50.
Option Two: The base fare is boosted by 25 cents, to $2.75, and the bonus increases from 5% to 11%. The 7-Day and 30-Day MetroCards are the same as in option one: $31 for the 7-Day card and $116.50 for the 30-Day pass.
Metro-North and the LIRR will be raising fares took, and Andrew Tangel of The Wall Street Journal reports that MTA Bridge & Tunnel tolls for trucks could increase by as much as 12 percent.
It’s hard to get too worked up one way or another over this proposal. The MTA had previously committed to a smaller-than-planned fare hike this year and stuck with it despite a huge capital funding gap and higher-than-anticipated labor expenditures. The fare hike is again whittling away at the pay-per-ride bonus, and to that end, I think a higher base fare with a more generous bonus is better. But higher base fares always affect those who can least afford it. Either way, I’ll be paying $116.50 (before tax, of course) for my 30-day card soon enough.
Which brings me to another point: As the federal government can’t do anything these days, pre-tax transit benefits are currently capped at $130 per month and seem to be stuck there. In the not-too-distant future, the MTA is going to hit that ceiling for 30-day cards, and then we’ll see what happens in Washington. For now, we’re facing another modest fare hike and one the city will have to resignedly accept.