As the MTA gears up to host a slate of public hearings in September on the fare hike proposal, the Authority has officially released the details of the competing plans. Either the monthly MetroCard will have a rider cap or the cost will sneak past $100. The news coverage though has focused on a third proposal: the cost of a true unlimited ride card if the MTA were to adopt both fare options.
“Riders stunned by $130 monthly card!” says the Daily News. “Fare hike just got steeper!” NBC New York proclaims. There is but one problem, as MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said to me, “This is not an official MTA proposal.”
The official fare proposals are pretty straightforward as the MTA works to raise fare revenues by 7.5 percent. The base fare — paid by just 14 percent of riders — will remain at $2.25, but disposable single-ride tickets will come with a 25-cent surcharge. All new MetroCards will come with a $1 fee, but the MTA says few, if any regular riders, will have to pay. I’ve also been told that Unlimited Ride cards will be refillable when this fee goes into effect as well.
“This is a charge that no one needs to incur: most everyone has a MetroCard in hand, which can be reloaded in system at no cost,” the authority said. “If the card has expired, MetroCard vending machines will offer to load any remaining value on a new card at no cost; passes will now be reloadable with time or value without cost; and the charge will not apply to out of system vendor sales, elderly/disabled customers, transit benefit organization customers, combination commuter railroad-MetroCard ticket users, or stolen cards.”
The pay-per-ride discount will be decreased from 15 percent for purchases of at least $8 to 7 percent of purchases of at least $10. Approximately 36 percent of subway riders use the pay-per-ride bonus, and these straphangers will see their effective base fare jump from $1.96 a ride to $2.10 per swipe.
The competing unlimited ride proposals — one with capped cards and one without — require a table:
|Pass Type||Current Fare||Unlimited Proposal||Capped Proposal|
|30-Day Card||$89||$104||$99/90 trips|
|Fare Per Trip|
|7-Day Card||$27||$29||$28/22 trips|
|Fare Per Trip|
The barely-used 14-day and 1-day MetroCards will be eliminated.
Now, these numbers weren’t chosen at random by the MTA. Rather, straphangers who use the unlimited card cards make, on average, 59 trips over the 30-day span and 16 trips on the seven-day cards. Transfers would not count against the cap, and the authority explains the reasons behind the two proposals. “An unlimited pass provides the convenience of not having to consider the number of trips, but has a higher price,” it said. “The capped pass would limit the total number of trips that can be taken, but with a smaller fare increase.”
The $130 figure — which has scared and scarred New York subway riders — came about because the MTA Board asked the authority to include a joint proposal on the fare hike hearing materials. How much would it cost to include both a capped option and true unlimited ride card? Since the MTA wants to limit fraudulent uses of the unlimited MetroCards and ensure that the heaviest of users are shouldering their fair share of the fare burden, the $130 amount was released as an estimate. “To ensure maximum flexibility for the Board in making its determination, and to encourage robust public discourse, the public notice of fare and toll adjustments provides some leeway to allow for the adoption of other alternative pricing combinations,” Donovan told me.
Still, as the people protest, one MTA Board member doubts the agency will embrace such a high figure simply due to sticker shock. Even if most people wouldn’t need or have to pay the $130 card, that the idea exists could be a blow to what little faith the public has in the MTA. “It’s not going to happen,” Andrew Albert said to The Post.
It makes for a good headline, but when all is said and done, we’ll be facing capped cards that cost less than $100, for now, or an uncapped card that require us to fork over $100 a deal. The $130 card elicits fear that is unwarranted. For now, these monthly options are still good deals, but the prices just keep on going up, up, up as the authority tries to avoid more service cuts.
Let’s end this one with a poll. Pick your poison.