Now that the MTA’s fare hike hearings have ended, the waiting game begins. We wait for the MTA Board to meet; we wait them to vote on the fare hike; we wait for the fare hike to go into effect. From the sound of things, New Yorkers will also be waiting not so expectantly for the first triple-digit MetroCard in subway history.
According to MTA CEO and Chairman Jay Walder, public sentiment is firmly behind maintaining the MetroCard status quo albeit with higher prices. As City Room reported, Walder discussed the fare hike hearings earlier this week while speaking with the New York Building Congress. “It’s safe to say there hasn’t been a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for the capped pass,” he said.
As part of its fare hike offerings, the MTA had put forward two proposals — a capped and an uncapped one. Under the capped proposal, the more expensive offering would cost $99 and would be valid for either 30 days or 90 rides, whichever came first. According to the MTA, only a very small percentage of subway riders swipe their cards 90 or more times a month, but the MTA’s justification for the capped proposal, as I explored last week, has seemed sparse.
Under the more traditional fare hike, the MTA would retain the 30-day unlimited card, but the costs would shoot up even higher. The 30-day card could cost $104 while the seven-day card will cost $29. Under both proposals, the little-used one- and 14-day cards will be eliminated entirely.
According to Walder and the MTA’s analysis, the fare hike, which would send the cost of 30-day cards up by nearly 17 percent, impacts those who can better afford to pay. “One of the points about the 30-day pass is that the median household income for the 30-day pass is nearly double the household incomes for some other products,” Walder said.
But many transit advocates dispute the MTA’s assertions on the dueling fare hike proposals. Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign has been hammering the MTA on its rationale behind the hikes and believes the authority has not answered his questions to the fullest extent possible. “What will it mean to cap the ride? Will it discourage people from buying the pass? Will more people move to pay-per-ride? Will ridership go down? I’d like to know the answers to those questions,” he said to NY1’s John Mancini.
Even MTA Board members, says Mancini, want “to learn more on the fare hike options.” This tidbit about the Board is part of a larger narrative about the MTA’s proposed fare hike. Although Walder continues to insist that the fares must go up because money isn’t flowing in from elsewhere, transit advocates are calling for better solutions. The Straphangers, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and others have called for tolling solutions, and the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA has done the same.
While PCAC recognizes that the MTA is in dire financial straits, it also objects to “shifting of the burden of support for MTA services increasingly onto the backs of the riders.” The group has called upon the MTA to fight for the restoration of $143 million the state legislature moved from the transit fund to the state’s general fund last year and has asked the MTA to push through East River bridge tolls before trying to raise the fares. These solutions do not appear to be politically palatable right now even as they remain more practical than yet another steep fare hike.
And so we wait. We wait for solutions that do not come. We wait for politicians who do not answer the call. And we wait for the inevitability of higher fares over and over again.