Remember how excited New Yorkers were last week when the fare hike was seemingly rescinded?
Well, cancel those celebratory parties. As I noted, politicians shouldn’t play populist games with fare hikes when the MTA needs the money, and as Chris at East Village Idiot aptly noted, the fares for the Unlimited Ride MetroCards would increase such that those passengers who use them wind up shouldering much of the load for the fare hike.
Yesterday, the bad news started flowing straphangers’ way. The MTA has begun to unveil plans for Fare Hike ’08 Version 2. As you can guess, bridge and tunnel tolls will increase, commuter rail ticket prices will increase, and Unlimited Ride MetroCards will see a substantial increase. For many commuters — nearly half, in fact — those Unlimited Ride increases will hit them the hardest.
William Neuman at The New York Times has more:
Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s decision to freeze the base subway fare at $2 will not take the sting out of commuting costs for everyone: Yesterday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said commuter rail tickets and the city’s bridge and tunnel tolls will jump an average of 3.85 percent. And unlimited ride MetroCards and bonus pay-per-ride MetroCards possibly face even steeper increases.
“At the most basic arithmetic level, obviously if you hold constant one portion of your revenues, then by definition other revenues will have to be raised to make up that difference,” said the authority’s chief financial officer, Gary J. Dellaverson, referring to bus and subway fares.
Got that? The MTA is trying not to lose too much revenue to Spitzer’s pandering plan to scale back the fare hike. I now fully expect to see prices on the Unlimited Ride MetroCards jump substantially.
It will take at least a week for the MTA to formulate another plan, but it won’t look pretty. Right now, only 14 percent of riders pay the $2 base fare, and most of those folks aren’t regular subway users. Pay-Per-Ride discounts account for approximately 36 percent of the total fares, and Unlimited MetroCards make up a little less than half. We the regular subway riders will feel the burn on that one.
But, as I see it, that may not turn out to be a terrible outcome. I’m not flat out against the fare hike. If the MTA claims it needs money to stave off multi-billion-dollar debts, past ineptitude aside, I’m inclined to believe the new highly-qualified leaders now in power. Plus, the Unlimited MetroCards are a boon for the consumers.
Yesterday, I announced my MetroCard Challenge in which I figure out for this month how much per ride I pay on my 30-day Unlimited card. Already, after five days, I’ve taken 15 rides, and the cost per ride is down to just over $5. At my current pace, I’d be paying around $0.85 per ride, a far cry from the $2 base fare.
So if Unlimited Ride cards increase, riders will still see a benefit, but it won’t be as damaging to the MTA. And before we get all misty eyed over Spitzer’s supposedly riding the our rescue, did you really think he would be able to eliminate the fare hike? He just wanted to pay lip service to that notion and look good. Mission Accomplished.
Photo of the turnstiles courtesy of flickr user k8johnson.