Home MTA EconomicsDoomsday Budget Evening Musings: Coping with higher fares

Evening Musings: Coping with higher fares

by Benjamin Kabak

When the MTA Board meets tomorrow morning, they will approve a drastic fare increase that will look something like this:

  • Pay-per-ride subway and bus fares increase from $2 to $2.50. Whether the 15 percent discount will remain is up for debate.
  • Express bus fares will increse from $5 to $6.25.
  • 1-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCards increase from $7.50 to $9.50.
  • 7-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCards increase from $25 to $31.
  • 14-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCards increase from $47 to $59.
  • 30-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCards increase from $81 to $103.

The math, by the way, for figuring out the value of the unlimited card remains virtually the same. If the MTA retains the 15 percent discount, anyone who rides 48 or more times a month should buy a 30-day card. Otherwise, just pay per ride.

As New Yorkers adjust to these 24-27 percent hikes, transit advocates and news outlet alike are wondering how subway-dependent straphangers are going to adjust to the increase costs. City Room posed the question yesterday, and Streetsblog followed up with their own thread today. The Times also wants to know who among us constitute the 2.1 percent of riders that buy single-ride cards. I say tourists.

In response to these questions, most people claim they will change their habits. Some people say they were bike more; others say they will turn to cabs; still others say they will simply cut back on a drink or two. We’ll see if that comes to pass.

I plan to do nothing diffrent. The extra $22 a month is a pain especially in a bad economy and with worse service on the way. In the grand scheme of things though, unlimited access to all of New York City for $103 a month is still a great deal. It’s far cheaper than taking a cab. It’s far cheaper than owning a car and driving

But that’s just me.

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Scott E March 24, 2009 - 8:38 pm

I don’t quite understand the “take a cab” response. Sounds more like a protest move than a money-saving one.

This is what really hits home for me; from the NY Times article: “Commuter rail: Fares on most lines would go up from 20 percent to nearly 30 percent. For example, on the Long Island Rail Road, a person who commutes from Hicksville to Pennsylvania Station will pay $267 for a monthly ticket, up from $211.” Which is a $56 increase on top of the $22 additional MetroCard fare.

Someone asked a few months back about alternatives to the MTA. Well, I’ve been seeing ads for this one lately: Long Island Transit, a third-party commuter bus that runs from Glen Cove and Roslyn Heights, Long Island to Midtown and to Wall Street. It’s $199 for a monthly pass, $9 for a one-way trip, $16 for a same-day round-trip. Plus, it makes several stops in Manhattan so you can probably avoid the subways as well. I wonder how well they are doing, and what will change as a result of the fare hikes.

Plus, there’s always the PATH along 6th Avenue, still a bargain at $1.75, if it gets you where you need to go.

Ed March 24, 2009 - 10:22 pm

If you want to cut transportation costs for people, cut the number of police or at least tell the police not to bother to enforce the laws against gypsy cabs, unless said cabs are committing other traffic violations.

That is pretty much how people get around in the developing world. Many of the poor in most cities in the world don’t own cars, and can’t afford the fares for their metro systems, which usually are not as extensive as the NYC subway system anyway. Developing world bus systems tend to be very functional -they are not designed for old people who have trouble walking four blocks- but they tend not to go into shantytowns. How due poor people in these places get to work? Lots and lots of people with cars looking to make some cash on the side by picking up passengers.

If we are going to have a government with developing world levels of corruption and dysfunctionality, we could do worse than look at how people elsewhere who have had to deal with that for decades handle it.

Alon Levy March 24, 2009 - 10:52 pm

Ed, that works in cities with five cars per hundred people, not cities with twenty-three like New York.

The Boss and Very Angry Commuter March 24, 2009 - 11:08 pm

Thirty-one dollars for a 7-day pass and $59 for a 14-day pass. I’m not happy and I still don’t the idea that the MTA is out of money. This is another reason why the MTA should be abolish.

Cen-Sin March 24, 2009 - 11:49 pm

I really did contemplate taking a bike to work. I’ve got a lot of time on my hands for travelling and I actually need the exercise. It beats standing in the train for 2 × 50 minutes doing nothing. If I find a good bike by the end of the month, I’ll be riding back and fourth 5 times a week between Manhattan and Coney Island (maybe have a regular Metrocard on hand in case I need to get somewhere faster). I’ve gone as far as plotting my routes and walking them already.

MTA supporters play the blame game as hike looms :: Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog March 25, 2009 - 1:01 am

[…] « Evening Musings: Coping with higher fares Mar […]

Mitch45 March 25, 2009 - 8:27 am

I’m getting hosed twice, as I take the LIRR and the subway.

JC Frank March 25, 2009 - 9:32 am

The only silver lining in this is that the monthly transit check limit is going up to $230/mo starting June 1st, so I can pay for all this (including my PATH) with pre tax dollars. Not much, but ya take what you can get.

Emily March 25, 2009 - 10:33 am

Scott, the cab rationale is simple and I’m sure a lot of people will think this way: it’s saturday night and you’re meeting friends for dinner. Do you take the subway, which pretty much barely runs after all the service cuts and is even filthier than before, or do you just say “screw it” and take a cab. Especially true if you’re paying per ride with your metro card, the price difference between cab fare and a subway ride is now smaller. Perhaps the 50 cents is not significant, but, psychologically, the subway feels more expensive than it used to be due to the hike while the cab is the same price as you’re used to.

I have a question, though. When the MTA decided that they need to raise fares, how much of a loss of ridership are they predicting and are they raising fares taking into account that fewer people will ride? Same goes for the service cuts, are they figuring in the expected shortfall from the reduced ridership because of crappier service? Does anyone know what the math used for this is, namely, how much is ridership expected to fall off by due to the hikes and the cuts?

Simply put, how much of my fare increase is going to cover the fares other people would have been paying that are no longer going to ride?


TC March 25, 2009 - 1:00 pm

To pile on and make Emily’s cab rationale even simpler: remember that unlike subway fares, you can cut the cost of your cab ride in half by sharing with one person, or by 75% by sharing with three other people. And although they don’t come at scheduled times, if you know your corners, you can almost definitely catch a cab after midnight (in the city, at least) in much less than 20 minutes, while waiting in a public area with lots of pedestrians, motorists, and cops who can aid you (not to mention the ability to call 911 on your cell) if sketchy stuff starts to happen.

MTA Board approves May 31 fare hikes, service cuts :: Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog March 25, 2009 - 12:32 pm

[…] service cuts in its legally mandated effort to balance its budget. The new fare structure will be as I detailed last night, and the new fare rates are set to go into effect on May 31. No word on when the service cuts will […]


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