MTA Board members are gearing up for another round of public abuse. (Photo by flickr user azipaybarah)
Whenever the MTA is facing a fare hike, the authority’s board must partake in a charade that most transit advocates consider to be akin to a circus. At public locations throughout the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District, MTA Board members and agency presidents will subject themselves to countless hours of public abuse as the uninformed masses heap insults upon them. Straphangers, disgruntled workers and grandstanding New York City politicians will take to the mic to gain political points without adding to the discourse, and the MTA is expected to both take it without response and turn public unrest into coherent policy.
This time around, though, the circus has a point for the way we ride rests in the balance. As we learned in July, this year’s fare hike proposal came with a huge hitch: The MTA may very well do away with the Unlimited ride MetroCard. To combat the fact that the average fare today is lower, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than what we paid in 1996, the authority has proposed to cap the unlimited ride cards and eliminate the one- and 14-day cards. The overall proposal looks a little something like this with a $1 surcharge on new cards added as well:
|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|
There is, of course, a third proposal that made waves last month. The MTA could institute a scheme where they offer capped and uncapped cards, and the truly unlimited cards could cost around $130 for 30 days. It isn’t a Doomsday scenario, but it’s a big blow to the psyche of New York’s straphangers long used to riding the rails as often as they want for under $100 a month. Even if the $130 scenario doesn’t come to pass — “It’s not going to happen,” Andrew Albert of the NYC Transit Riders Council said — the costs will go up.
Enter the fare hike hearings. In the past, I’ve subjected myself to these hearings, a fate I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, and I’ll likely attend a part of the hearing in Brooklyn next week. They are, to say the least, tedious affairs. They start with the politicians who think they are too important to sit through the hearing and must be heard while people are paying attention. These electeds — the same people who voted to remove $143 million in earmarked money from the MTA’s coffers — will point fingers as “fat cat Board members” and anyone but themselves. It is a lesson in deflecting blame.
Then, the union leaders and disabled riders will bemoan the way the MTA dumps on them. While some of the complaints are valid, the point of the hearings is not to create a free-for-all. The authority is interested in raising the fares by 7.5 percent in a way it and the public think is fair for all. No one likes fare hikes, but they’ve become an evil of the New York City subway system.
Instead of this circus, then, New Yorkers should defend the way we ride. The Unlimited Ride cards ushered in a new golden age of sorts underground. People ride more often than they used to and have come to rely on the subways for shorter rides. It’s easier to justify a two-stop trip when the MetroCard was bought and paid for two weeks ago, and the ride itself actually helps to reduce the average cost of a swipe. To maintain ridership, to maintain the role of the subways as the desired method for travel, Transit should encourage people to ride, and to do that, the Unlimited ride cards should not be cut.
Starting tonight, then, New Yorkers should stand up for their Unlimited ride cards. The MTA Board has to vote on two competing proposals later this month, and they haven’t decided yet which one to implement. If enough people speak up, we’ll keep our unlimited ride cards for a few dollars more. Maybe 90 rides would be enough for everyone, but as soon as straphangers start counting their swipes, the subways seem more like a luxury and less like a vital part of everyday life. Only the circus can save these cards this time around.
After the jump, the full information about the nine upcoming fare hike hearings.
All hearings begin at 6 p.m.; registration opens at 5 p.m. and closes at 9 p.m. All registered speakers will be heard.
Monday, September 13
The Cooper Union — The Great Hall
7 East 7th Street at Third Avenue
Hilton Garden Inn
15 Crossroads Court
Newburgh, Orange County
Wednesday, September 15
Hostos Community College — (CUNY) Main Theater
450 Grand Concourse
Thursday, September 16
St. George Theatre
35 Hyatt Street
The Garden City Hotel
45 Seventh Street
Garden City, Nassau
Monday, September 20
Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel
135-20 39th Avenue
Suffolk County Legislature
725 Veterans Memorial Highway
Tuesday, September 21
White Plains Performing Arts Center
11 City Place, 3rd Floor City Center
White Plains, Westchester
Brooklyn Museum — Cantor Auditorium
200 Eastern Parkway