Home Fare Hikes With the fare hike, the subway is still a good deal

With the fare hike, the subway is still a good deal

by Benjamin Kabak


On the first weekday after the fare hike, Metro, one of New York’s free dailies, ran an article on the rider reaction to the fare hike. As anyone could imagine, most straphangers were complaining about the increase in fares. Of course, they were; no one likes it when prices go up.

But the article wasn’t that outlandish; Metro saved that for the survey — shown above — they included with the piece. In this survey, Metro asked 193 members of their Metro Life Panel their thoughts on the fare hike, and the results are stunningly ignorant.

First, 70 percent of respondents didn’t feel that the subways were still a good deal. To which I say, “Are you kidding me?” The maximum amount anyone pays per ride for the subway is $2, and only about 11 percent of all subway riders pay the full fare. That number didn’t go up.

So for less than $2.00, New Yorkers can get anywhere via the MTA’s public transit system. Want to go from Coney Island to Inwood? Less than $2.00 on the subway. The same trip would cost someone around $60 in a cab. Want to go from South Ferry to 14th St.? Less than $2.00. It ain’t that cheap in a taxi. Meanwhile, the subways are still running 24 hours a day, and we will even get added service because of the fare hike. How is this remotely close to a bad deal? It’s a fantastic deal.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. Over 80 percent of the respondents felt that the revenues generated from the fare hike would not go to a good use. If funding the MTA isn’t a good use of the revenue the agency draws in, I’d love to hear what these people think a better use of the money would be. As I said, we’re getting more bang for our buck through the planned service upgrades. That is indeed a good use of the fare hike.

We move next to the left column. Eight percent of respondents — a relatively small number, I know — believe the subway is no longer the cheapest option. You got that? A fare hike that, at most, is a 6.5 percent increase prices the subway out of the realm of the cheap. That cab, by the way, from South Ferry to 14th St.? A cool $10.60 before the tip. The only cheaper option is walking.

Finally, the kicker: Metro Life Panel respondents would like the average subway ride to cost $1.70. Now, seemingly, that’s a far cry from the current $2.00 fare. Right? Not even close.

As I mentioned, approximately 89 percent of subway riders use some form of discounted MetroCard. Whether those are pay-per-ride cards with free rides or Unlimited Ride cards where, as I showed, the cost per ride could drop to nearly $1.00 per ride, people aren’t paying a full fare. As I’ve written in the past, the average cost per ride comes out to approximately $1.31. Even with a 6.5 percent increase, the average cost per ride would creep up to a shade under $1.40 or 30 cents less than what Metro Life Panel respondents believe they should pay. Geniuses, the lot of ’em.

Now, I know that most subway riders don’t pay obsessive attention to MTA detail as I and many of my readers do, and I know that Metro is trying to, well, not exactly sell free newspapers but draw eyes. Still, the paper shouldn’t run things so blatantly wrong and potentially inflammatory.

While I’m a proponent of the fare hike, I know people are going to complain and moan about it. But the subways are still a good deal. In fact, at $1.40 a ride, the subways are a better deal than nearly everyone thinks they are. Don’t tell the MTA; they may raise fares even more.

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John March 5, 2008 - 12:25 am

Your point is something no one ever seems to bring up. The subway is a good deal. And it makes New York livable. Without it, I couldn’t afford to stay.

The Secret Conductor March 5, 2008 - 4:04 am

You know people like to complain. It is an American pastime.

Marc Shepherd March 5, 2008 - 10:33 am

The funny thing is that the base price of a taxi ride is $2.50 — that’s the amount on the meter before it moves a single inch. And of course, there are no discounts available, and unless you’re a jerk you’ll probably be leaving a tip. So there is no conceivable route for which a taxi would be cheaper. More convenient, perhaps, but not cheaper.

Todd March 5, 2008 - 1:54 pm

Metro Life Panel respondents would like the average subway ride to cost $1.70.

$1.70 x 74 rides = $125.80 a month. Yeah, I agree with the Metro readers. That’s totally better then the current prices.

Marc Shepherd March 5, 2008 - 2:35 pm

To be fair, the Governer of New York, who is a college graduate, didn’t understand this either. He claimed it was a triumph for New Yorkers when the agency decided to keep the base fare constant at $2.00 — thereby saving money only for the least frequent riders, and increasing it for everybody else.


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