Home Fare Hikes Who pays attention to the needs of the subways?

Who pays attention to the needs of the subways?

by Benjamin Kabak

On Sunday, the MTA will raise the fares. A single ride will cost $2.25, and the various MetroCard offerings will increase by a few dollars. For those of us watching, it won’t come as a surprise, and we’ll know that the MTA almost had to raise the fares by a much greater percentage than they did. We’ll also know that the MTA’s finances — just one set of books — is not too far from the edge of a disaster, and we’ll know that the MTA would rather not have to raise the fares at all.

The sad part is, though, that the vast majority of New Yorkers don’t know and don’t care to find out. They don’t care to invest time to educate themselves about the mass transit system. They would rather complain about fictional charges — two sets of books, the MTA wants to cut service, yadda yadd yadda — than educate themselves about transit and find out how a true commitment to transit investment would radically improve life in New York City.

A series of articles by Heather Haddon that appears this week in amNew York drive home this point. For the most, these articles are anecdotal. Haddon staked out a bunch of subway stations, asked various straphangers their views on the upcoming fare hike and picked some of the most ludicrous answers to highlight.

On Monday, Haddon focused on the fact that some riders did not know the fares were going up. Never mind the front page news coverage or the lead stories on the local newscasts about it. “Get out of here. Nobody’s going to pay that,” Richard Tillman said. “It just went up.”

No one, Richard? Really? I think everyone will pay it, and it will remain a relatively cheap and easy way to get around the city.

The best quotes from Haddon’s articles though are from those who say they will turn to their cars. “Now I know what I’m going to do next week. I’m going to pull out the car,” Angela Pacheco of Brooklyn said because the 30-Day Unlimited Ride is going up the cost of a whopping three gallons of gas. Another rider in another Haddon piece echoed Pacheco. “Might as well get a car,” Marcia Roberts, a Queens resident, said.

This is the attitude that explains why our mass transit system doesn’t have political support. This is why people are going to be fighting with MTA employees over the new fares. This is why politicians refuse to toll the East River bridges, refuse to allow the city to implement camera-enforced bus lanes. This is why the agency that runs our subway system — a system that transports over 5.2 million people per day — is struggling to keep it in a state of good repair.

On the eve of yet another fare hike, transit advocates have themselves to blame. We haven’t united behind the proper message; we haven’t overcome a powerful auto lobby; and we haven’t made our voices heard by those who hold the purse strings. One day, that will change. For now, we’re left with higher fares and a transit authority on life support.

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11 comments

MichaelB June 26, 2009 - 8:11 am

It’s always this way. And it is so across the entire spectrum of political issues. For the most part, people want their elected officials to make things work and not bother them with the details.

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Streetsblog New York City » Today’s Headlines June 26, 2009 - 9:33 am

[…] Sad State of Transit Advocacy (2nd Ave Sagas via […]

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Streetsblog Capitol Hill » If New Yorkers Don’t Value Transit, Who Will? June 26, 2009 - 10:36 am

[…] largest economies in the world. Unfortunately, writes Streetsblog Network member Benjamin Kabak on Second Avenue Sagas, those who depend on the MTA — and those whom the MTA depends upon — are often ignorant of its […]

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Streetsblog New York City » If New Yorkers Don’t Value Transit, Who Will? June 26, 2009 - 10:40 am

[…] largest economies in the world. Unfortunately, writes Streetsblog Network member Benjamin Kabak on Second Avenue Sagas, those who depend on the MTA, and those whom the MTA depends upon, are often ignorant of its plight […]

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Streetsblog Los Angeles » In New York, Riders Are Indifferent to State of NYCMTA June 26, 2009 - 11:22 am

[…] largest economies in the world. Unfortunately, writes Streetsblog Network member Benjamin Kabak on Second Avenue Sagas, those who depend on the MTA — and those whom the MTA depends upon — are often ignorant of its […]

Reply
Streetsblog San Francisco » If New Yorkers Don’t Value Transit, Who Will? June 26, 2009 - 12:08 pm

[…] largest economies in the world. Unfortunately, writes Streetsblog Network member Benjamin Kabak on Second Avenue Sagas, those who depend on the MTA — and those whom the MTA depends upon — are often ignorant of its […]

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Demanding a Real Transit Advocacy Group « On Transport June 26, 2009 - 3:56 pm

[…] Posted in New York City by Chris on June 26, 2009 Ben Kabak at Second Avenue Sagas pointed out the general apathy today about the MTA’s latest round of fare hikes, set to go into effect over the weekend. In […]

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Cap'n Transit June 27, 2009 - 8:43 am

Ben, how do you know that Haddon’s sources are at all representative of what the average straphanger knows or thinks?

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Spokker June 28, 2009 - 5:02 am

““Might as well get a car,” Marcia Roberts, a Queens resident, said.”

Listen, sweetheart, the car is going to cost you a hell of a lot more than buying 12 monthly passes per year. These people are either bluffing or stupid.

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Questioning those who cover the subway :: Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog June 29, 2009 - 1:09 am

[…] Friday, in a companion piece to this one, I took transit activists to task for their inability to fight in Albany. All of us work hard online to get our opinions heard, but […]

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Streetsblog New York City » Fare Hike Coverage: We Know the Effect, But What About the Cause? June 29, 2009 - 2:35 pm

[…] roll critiquing media coverage of the MTA fare hike, which went into effect yesterday. Last week he questioned the coalition-building skills of transit advocates. Today he goes after the […]

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