As the MTA begins to prepare for a 2011 fare hike, the authority is considering a plan to implement a surcharge on new MetroCards and to cap the number of rides available to those who use weekly and monthly cards, The New York Post reported this morning. While the single-ride fare would remain at $2.25, the total fare hike package will result in a 7.5 percent increase.
The news of a fare hike comes amidst a year of cuts and budgetary problems for the beleaguered transit authority. Faced with an initial $800 million budget gap, the authority had to implement sweeping service cuts in June that saw two subway lines axed and numerous bus routes scaled back or eliminated entirely. Still, despite internal cost-cuttings, the MTA has to find $400 million, and with Albany silent on such revenue-generating proposals as East River bridge tolls or congestion pricing, the fare hikes remain one of the MTA’s few reliable sources of revenue. Additionally, Albany granted the MTA the ability to issue a 2011 fare increase when the legislature approved the payroll tax funding plan last year.
Per The Post, the hikes would be put in place or or near January 1, and the proposal looks a little something like this:
- Riders would pay a $1 surcharge every time they get a new MetroCard from a vending machine instead of refilling an old one.
- $27 weekly MetroCards would rise by about 4%.
- $89 monthly cards would increase to just under $100.
- Number of rides on weekly and monthly cards would be capped.
- Single-ride fare would remain at $2.25.
- Elimination of off-peak fare pricing on all LIRR and Metro-North trains.
- Overall fare hike would be 7.5%.
Tom Namako’s sources defended the need to charge for a new MetroCard, one of the proposal’s more controversial aspects. “When I see what it costs to produce MetroCards, it’s not efficient, and it makes me sick when I see them strewn across the floor at stations,” his source said. For this surcharge to be an equitable one, however, the MTA will have to address the fact that Unlimited ride cards are currently not refillable. Being forced to pay a surcharge because the system is flawed would penalize the 50 percent of riders who rely on those weekly or monthly passes.
Despite these increases, the single-ride fare would stay the same. Less than 10 percent of riders pay the full $2.25 these days, and it’s clear that the MTA is trying to change the fact that, in inflation-adjusted terms, the average fare is lower now than it was in 1996. “We’re very interested in keeping the single-ride fare at the level it’s at now,” a Post source said.
On the record, the MTA cautioned that these rumored plans are just that. Official overall budget numers are not due until later this month, and a specific fare hike proposal would not arrive until the fall. “The rescue agreement reached with the Governor and Legislature last spring called for a 7.5% increase in revenues from MTA fares and tolls in January 2011, and despite an $800 million budget shortfall caused by deteriorating tax revenues, it has always been our intention to try to adhere to this agreement,” the agency said in statement. “As we have consistently said, the amount of the increase must be determined in the context of our overall financial plan, which is not finalized and will be presented to the MTA Board later this month. At that time the Board will be asked to authorize public hearings on the fare increase to be held in the fall. Only after those hearings will a final decision be made on both the level of the increase and how it will be implemented.”