Home Fare Hikes Advocates: Political support for MTA can stave off fare hikes

Advocates: Political support for MTA can stave off fare hikes

by Benjamin Kabak

Now that we’ve seen the fare hike proposals and know when the public hearings will take place, the looming transit rate increase seems like a fait accompli. All that’s left is for us to find out who gets to shoulder the load this time — unlimited card users or pay-per-ride users. No matter the outcome, we’ll all get to pay that new $1 new card surcharge every time we opt against refilling a scuffed and old card in our wallets.

Meanwhile, as the inevitable approaches, the region’s transit advocates have sounded off on the proposals. While the Straphangers Campaign has issued a handy chart detailing how much each proposal would cost users of particular cards, a common theme units the various statements issued by the leading players around the city. All of it involves Albany. Let’s take a look.

Straphangers Campaign:

New York City Transit already has the highest fare box operating ratio in the nation at 53%. That is the share of operating costs covered by fares. MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said in September that “when you compare the public support given to mass transit agencies nationwide on a per customer basis, New York ranks at the very bottom.

In comparison to New York City Transit’s 53% ratio, the average for large systems nation-wide that operate both buses and subways was 38% in 2011. That’s according to the Federal Transit Administration in 2011, its most recent figures. Looking at big cities that run both subways and buses, the farebox operating ratio in Boston was 38%, Chicago 44%, Los Angeles 27%, Philadelphia 37%, and Washington, D.C. 42%.

Blocking or reducing the fare increase is possible, if we get more help from Albany. One promising plan is to generate new revenue by both raising and lowering tolls on city bridges and tunnels in line with where there is the most and least congestion. Under this plan – developed by a former New York City traffic commissioner Sam Schwartz, known as Gridlock Sam ­– tolls would go down on some facilities (like the Throgs Neck and Verrazano-Narrow Bridges) and be instituted on others (Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.) The State would need to authorize some of tolls.

Transportation Alternatives:

The 7.5 million New Yorkers who use the bus and subway every day need Governor Cuomo to stop this fare hike. While New Yorkers have suffered fare hike after fare hike, our State government raided hundreds of millions of dollars in transit funds. Governor Cuomo can put a stop to this by increasing the State’s investment in public transit. Treating our MetroCards like a credit card is no way for the State to run a railroad.

Tri-State Transportation Campaign:

Transportation funding is a political problem. City and state legislators make the funding decisions that impact our daily commutes, quality of life, and the region’s economic growth. Yet, stagnant funding contributions, sweeps of dedicated transit funds for non-transit use, and threats to dedicated transit taxes, such as the payroll mobility tax, perpetually undermine the financial outlook of the agency. And, very few legislators are standing up for the transit rider.

Our legislators have to find a solution, not contribute to the problem. The pockets of transit riders are not default piggybanks when city and state elected officials fail to adequately support transit. These increases significantly impact low-income transit users; 1/4 of New York City Transit riders making $25,000 or less rely on a 7% bonus on pay-per-ride MetroCards of more than $10 to stretch their travel budget.

With upcoming state elections and fare increase hearings in November, transit riders should call on their elected officials to find a solution. We don’t need more legislative voices denouncing the fare increases. We need more voices working towards a viable, long-term funding solution. It is time for our legislature to revisit new funding ideas, such as variable pricing and more balanced tolling for the five boroughs.

From the advocates, at least, laying the blame on the feet of politicians is a common theme, and as I said on Twitter on Monday, “If you’re angry over the MTA’s fare hike, vote for politicians that aren’t horrible at their jobs.” But what can we do now?

Even if Albany were to allocate more money for the MTA, it’s not guaranteed to get there. Earlier this year, Andrew Cuomo and his allies in Albany once again stripped the lockbox bill of its teeth, and yet again, transit dollars are vulnerable to state poaching. That is, of course, why the MTA is in this mess in the first place. The state won’t promise to leave dedicated dollars in dedicated accounts and has often re-appropriated MTA dollars to cover other budget deficits. The MTA then is left only with fare hikes as ways to generate revenue.

These statements right now are a true sign of a focus on the cause of the problem, but they cannot stop today. The MTA is set to raise fares again 24 months after the 2013 fare hike goes into effect, and these rider advocates have to spend the next two years hammering home this point. Whether it be congestion pricing, East River bridge tolls or other direct subsidies, the state and city must do more for its millions of transit riders. When will the voters wake up to this reality?

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Justin Samuels October 16, 2012 - 12:25 am

I think voters will never come out and support transit or transit back politicians. Take Manhattan. A big percentage of people who live there are students, interns, or residents. A number of others have apartments in Manhattan, but don’t live there much of the time (they live in the suburbs, or in other cities or states, or countries even). Not too mention a lot of young people come to NYC, work for a few years, and leave. So there goes support for transit in Manhattan. Also, if you live in much of Manhattan, you can really WALK to where you need to go to. plus they take cabs a lot, including to the airports.

In the outer boroughs, very often those who have teacher level income or above have cars. So they aren’t the biggest backers of transit, either. And the low income people that organizations like Straphangers like to mention? Do they even vote? Plus, if you’re unemployed, its not like you have to take the train every day, so you simply won’t care as much.

What’s going to happen is that fares will go up even more, as Cuomo, a pro business governor, will not do anything that might offend business people not wanting to pay additional taxes. NYC will likely get a mayor who is a protege of Bloomberg, and again.

The other problem is the public doesn’t trust the MTA. I had a job interview to go to. Only I was stuck in the train for an hour and a half because of a broken down train in front of ours, and a signal failing. Incidents like these do not endear the public to want to provide more tax money to support the MTA. In fact, as soon as things are better with me financially I’m getting a CAR.

Stephen Smith October 16, 2012 - 1:07 am

NYC will likely get a mayor who is a protege of Bloomberg…

Christine Quinn is the obvious front-runner, and while she has tried to reinvent herself as a more business-friendly, Bloomberg-type politician, she’s not doing a very convincing imitation. She came up through housing politics and is in many ways a typical West Side liberal. Interestingly enough, NYC hasn’t had a Democrat as mayor in two decades, so it’ll be interesting to see how that turns out.

I’m guessing her “schtick” will be affordable housing – expect many more SPURA- and Atlantic Yards-type projects with high affordable housing ratios and lots of government favors to developers to build said affordable housing.

As for transit, I’m sure she’ll push for more funding to stave off the short-term problems, but as for the medium- and long-range issues of efficiency and reform, I don’t expect much out of her. Hard to imagine her pushing for OPTO reform on the subways like Bloomberg seems to be doing through Lhota (however belatedly!), nevermind the bigger issues like the reform that regional rail and Capital Construction desperately need.

Bolwerk October 16, 2012 - 2:09 am

Quinn is a priggish, nannying soccer mom whose openness to outsiders, toleration for deviance, and even concern for others doesn’t extend beyond her social circle of wealthy Chelsea LGBT activists and their style section hangers-on. Her respect for civil liberties seems as abysmal as Bloomberg’s or Ray Kelly’s, and she doesn’t even have good qualities in other areas like transit or the environment.

In other words, she’s the ultimate conservative. I would guess her party affiliation is mostly a matter of convenience. If she spent more than weekends escaping the city riffraff to Monmouth, she’d probably be a Republikan.

Justin Samuels October 16, 2012 - 3:23 am

I agree with Bolwerk, Quinn is a conservative. As such, she will not do a lot of truly affordable housing. For starters, we already had a lot of affordable housing built under Mayors Wagner and Lindsay. They quickly became ghettos, and this was a huge drain on city coffers. Not to mention the crime problems. And whatever faults she may have, Quinn is not STUPID.

Since the 70s, for mayor, liberal became something of a dirty word. Koch, though a democrat, moved to the right. Dinkins didn’t last long, then we had Giuiliani. Then Bloomberg, who more or less continued Giuliani’s policies. Quinn, if elected, will not deviate. The next mayor, whoever she (or he) may be, will be more of the last 20 years, so don’t expect any new major city funding for transit. And the same state legislature won’t let something like congestion pricing go through.

So it will be higher fares once again, for the MTA’s revenue needs. Perhaps the MTA can more effectively develop its real estate portfolio to get additional revenues, and expand advertising to all metrocards.

petey October 16, 2012 - 9:31 am

“expect many more SPURA- and Atlantic Yards-type projects with high affordable housing ratios and lots of government favors to developers to build said affordable housing.”

except that in the end they won’t build those units, and the developers will pocket the subsidies

Alon Levy October 17, 2012 - 9:52 pm

The labor activists I know think she’s anti-worker and prefer any of the primary alternatives – Liu, Stringer, etc.

Bolwerk October 16, 2012 - 2:16 am

Meh. Enough with the tabloid newspeak. Cuomo has done little to nothing to improve the state’s economic outlook. Why? “Pro-business” is a euphemism for gagging on the members of small time shopowners who are afraid of any shift in the status quo. You can’t improve business in NYC without respecting the role of transit, at a minimum, and we’re at the point where our economy isn’t growing if the transit system doesn’t grow. In fact, that probably goes for the entire downstate region.

And how the hell do you think getting a car stops the unpredictable from happening? This region is a traffic apocalypse, and your odds of not making it when expected are oodles higher with a car than with transit, at least during, uh, business hours.

Justin Samuels October 16, 2012 - 3:08 am

I’m pretty close to Nassau, actually, so driving there to work would actually open up more locations and jobs for me. Or for that matter, driving around in Queens would also be more convenient, as it is nearly impossible to get from South Queens to North Queens on public transportation.

And no, it doesn’t look like the inactive parts of the Rockaway Beach LIRR will be reactivated any time this century.

And yes, even factoring traffic in, cars are often faster.

Particularly if you live in outer boroughs and getting around involves taking a train to a train to a bus (or more in some cases).

The network was built ONLY to really funnel people into Manhattan, and it basically ignored getting around in most areas outside Manhattan. This isn’t going to change soon, despite the fantasies of people online (ideas on things like the Nostrand Avenue Line, Utica Avenue line when all the MTA can do in Manhattan is build a Second Avenue STUBWAY on the Upper East Side).

Bolwerk October 16, 2012 - 8:11 am

I don’t mean to say there aren’t any good reasons for a person to get/use a car. They tend to revolve around things like “cars are the only option for the trips I need” though, which sounds likely to be your case. From a reliability standpoint, they’re worse than transit usually (reliability != speed, of course).

Justin Samuels October 16, 2012 - 6:29 pm

Out here in Queens, where a transfer to a transfer to a transfer eats up a lot of time, cars are a lot faster. And in the suburbs, where you may have to wait a half hour, an hour, or more between trains and buses, public transportation is just SLOW.

Or basically if you get on a freeway, you can move pretty fast, particularly if you’re traveling around the metropolitan area.

If you’re going a comparatively short distance, say from midtown to downtown NYC, and you’ve multiple trains nearby, it may not be worth it to drive. But going around the metro area as whole, public transportation is pretty HORRIBLE, if you do anything outside of a to Manhattan commute (which is only easy if you live directly next to a subway line).

Bolwerk October 16, 2012 - 11:00 pm

I don’t really see that in a vacuum. Part of the reason it’s so horrible is autos clog our major thoroughfares, and resources that could be going to better transit get eaten by keeping an aging road system afloat.

Justin Samuels October 17, 2012 - 6:25 am

Train to train transfers are not that great, either, particularly if you have to wait 20 minutes to an hour or MORE.

I once worked in Suffolk County, and after work had to wait well over an hour for the train to come. Which took another hour to bring me back to Queens. There I had to transfer to the subway. I could have already been home if I had been driving. And I know this from riding in a coworkers car. I’ve been over the metro area, in both cars and public transportations. Cars are much faster.

You won’t have door to door public transportation in NJ or LI, anytime soon. Also, while the LIRR is 24 hours, NJ Transit and Metro North aren’t. And late at night on the LIRR you have to wait a long time at train stations. There’s issue with exposure to weather, and safety concerns as well. Therefore, a lot of people would rather drive and so they do. And I will as well, sometime next year.

Alon Levy October 17, 2012 - 9:54 pm

Train to train transfers are not that great, either, particularly if you have to wait 20 minutes to an hour or MORE.

Too bad the integrated transfer timetable was not invented in New York.

Bolwerk October 16, 2012 - 8:45 am

Also, I think you’re overplaying the outer boroughs’ car dependency. It might be that we’re more dependent on cars than Manhattan, but there is a population probably much bigger than Manhattan in the boroughs that is dependent on transit in a way Manhattanites are not – Manhattanites can actually walk many of the places we need a train to go to.

Henry October 17, 2012 - 7:14 pm

It’s not impossible, it’s just a pain in the ass that might take an hour or two. The bus network in Central Queens more or less takes you anywhere else in Central Queens you want to go in an hour, but it’s tolerable if you really have to.

It could be worse – have you ever attempted to spontaneously ride a NICE bus?

Stephen Smith October 16, 2012 - 12:32 am

New York City Transit already has the highest fare box operating ratio in the nation at 53%…

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

David Brown October 16, 2012 - 8:59 am

The reality of the matter is why should average people trust the MTA, its Unions, interest groups like Straphangers, and Politicians? These people are totally oblivious to what is going on. Lets start with Quinn and the people running for Mayor. A perfect example is the Chambers Street Subway Station. This is located right next to City Hall (So it is not like they need to go far to find an ugly problem). If they are oblivious to this, how can they be expected to be aware of some of the other disgusting transit related issues out there? The point is, they can’t and (or) won’t. The same involves the costs of these projects (Such as East Side Access), and on this all parties are guilty. If the MTA announced, we will raise fares .75 cents on single fare rides, and .25 would be used for a Chambers St renovation, I would say go for it, and I think most people would agree (There are always a few who are always unhappy no matter what). But that requires being honest, and above board, and saying what they will use it on. Until there is some transparancy and common sense going on, the MTA, and the rest, cannot expect support.

Bolwerk October 16, 2012 - 10:03 am

The only politicians that matter here are the ones in Albany, and the appointees who run the MTA. The mayor has scant say over that, and the City Council effectively has none. They’ve gotten away with deflecting criticism the past few hikes, but it looks like now the press is at least paying attention to them. Let’s see how that goes.

As for “average people,” they don’t have any reason not to trust the union or the Straphangers. I don’t agree with the agendas of either of these groups, but both are pretty upfront about what they want – even if the former is comically selfish and the latter is comically delusional.

David Brown October 16, 2012 - 12:16 pm

The reason why we cannot trust the Union is while we know that they want to make things more favorable for themselves, at the expense of everyone else. We also have to be aware of the fact that there is no end game to their demands, and they will do anything to get what they want (Even if it is criminal in nature like with the “Disabled” LIRR employees). As far as the Straphangers are concerned, they are another left-wing pressure group, who want to punish people who drive, with tolling bridges, to hand the money over to the MTA & the TWU. The worst thing of course, is many of the people who drive are small business people (Cabbies, delivery people etc). Not exactly the 1% who can afford higher prices.

Benjamin Kabak October 16, 2012 - 12:22 pm

The worst thing of course, is many of the people who drive are small business people (Cabbies, delivery people etc). Not exactly the 1% who can afford higher prices.

No matter how many times you say this, it doesn’t become any more true.

Justin Samuels October 16, 2012 - 6:14 pm

I know a lot of other small business people, plus people like teachers, cops, firemen, etc who drive. Yes, these people all make more than the minimum wage, but its not like they are rolling in loot, either. The demographics that you would piss off in putting in congestion prices are the demographics you want on your side in an election. Its why the state senators from the outer boroughs and the suburbs BLOCKED congestion pricing repeatedly.

Bolwerk October 16, 2012 - 11:05 pm

I expect the bulk of them, if you explained the costs and benefits of such a system, would appreciate it. You probably can’t convince completely unreasonable people (or lizards), but the mathematics of CP favoring people who still need to drive are undeniable: oodles of saved time, and lower gas bills. And it multiples many times over for companies with employees who need to drive.

Justin Samuels October 17, 2012 - 6:30 am

The proponents of CP had their explanations rejected by people who drive, as no one wanted to volunteer extra money in tolls. Repeatedly rejected to the point where its DOA politically.

Bolwerk October 17, 2012 - 8:55 am

That’s completely inaccurate. It was backed by every governing body in the state, not to mention public opinion polls. Sheldon Silver was simply too cowardly to put it up for vote in the Assembly; it might have passed there too.

If it’s DOA, it’s because we don’t have a democracy.

nycpat October 16, 2012 - 12:42 pm

The TWU has nothing whatsoever to do with the LIRR. The TWU represents the ruthless criminal civil servants of NYCT who get their pensions from NYCERS. It’s interesting to see how you demonize whole groups of people.

Bolwerk October 16, 2012 - 1:46 pm

Yeah, I agree, they have no end game to their demands. That’s no secret, nor is it a problem. To some extent, the problem is that they won’t negotiate, but that’s hardly a trust issue. The crux of the problem, however, is Albany won’t say no to them, and I would argue the result is they see no need to negotiate for that reason.

As far as the Straphangers are concerned, they are another left-wing pressure group…

That’s a zinger. Their one concern is keeping the status quo for riders. In a sense, I can’t think of anything more conservative. They certainly don’t concern themselves with things that matter to leftists, like civil liberties and social justice.

(The AAA must be positively Marxist!)

The worst thing of course, is many of the people who drive are small business people (Cabbies, delivery people etc). Not exactly the 1% who can afford higher prices.

This kind of quantitative illiteracy just baffles me. Even a $9 bridge toll is less than the cost of three gallons of gas, which is easily what any truck and probably most private automobiles can waste in traffic daily. Price that traffic away and many people will save money.

Never mind the cost of labor. If it costs $30/hr to pay a driver, you damn well want him getting to his destination ASAP. A wasted hour in traffic is just plain dumb when a toll can get rid of that.

I guess attention to finances is leftist now….

Henry October 17, 2012 - 7:18 pm

But if you’re a cabbie, you’re most likely not driving to other boroughs unless you’re going to the airports, in which case the obvious solution is to raise the airport trip fee.

Delivery people are dangerous madmen on bikes, anyways. Haven’t you read the Post?

In any case, the only reason driving to Manhattan makes any sense right now is because (some of) the East River bridges are free. If we want to solve the terrible traffic that afflicts these bridges, we either make ALL of the crossings free or NONE of the crossings free.

Guess which one actually reduces traffic into Manhattan.

Eric F October 16, 2012 - 9:07 am

“The pockets of transit riders are not default piggybanks when city and state elected officials fail to adequately support transit.”

This is nonsense-speak. The price of everything goes up, whether it be transit fares or movie tickets. The obvious, natural payers for the system are its users. The term “support transit” can only be understood as a demand for yet more or increased taxes on unrelated stuff to mask the true cost of this fetishized system. If only these groups had a little sympathy for the people taxed on their salary and goods purchases to subsidize the choo-choos.

Bolwerk October 16, 2012 - 9:54 am

Wait. You’re complaining about nonsense? :-O

Reality check: transit users are taxed to pay for transit users’ use. They also are taxed to pay for your roads and bridges out in Alaska or wherever your delusions hail from; I know you’ll ignore this little nugget of information and go about your day, but the reverse is simply not true.

The obvious, natural payers for the system are its users.

The users more than pay for the system. What they don’t pay for based on the fare they pay, is the over-the-top labor and pension costs of a system Albany refuses to allow to be reformed. Until such reform is at least allowed, Albany damn well should pay for its mandates.

Justin Samuels October 16, 2012 - 6:21 pm

Its extremely difficult for a politician to raise ANY taxes in the current political climate. States have laid off civil service, cut funding to soup kitchens, to schools, etc.

So if no other government funding can get more revenues through taxes, why do you expect transit can? Not in this political climate. Public schools are being forced to raise funds and take donations, public universities are being forced to raise tuition and cut certain expenditures, and some states are releasing inmates because budgets to prisons are going down (some states are defacto decriminalizing marijuana in part to cut down on prison spending).

NYC has closed senior citizen centers, reduced the number of cops, closed firemen. With all this going on, do you think Albany or City Hall can increase funding to transit?

The point is, transit is not sacred. If functions that used by many more people nationally, such as schools, firemen, and cops get cut, don’t expect transit to get more government funding unless there is a MAJOR change in politics and a major change in what the public thinks the government’s responsibilities are.

Bolwerk October 16, 2012 - 11:12 pm

I don’t think NYC transit should net more operating funding. Not before they make more optimal use of the resources they have anyway. I think more capital funding is appropriate, even with borrowing, but it provides a return on investment.

And the prescription for NYC isn’t the prescription that should happen in the rest of the country: we need fewer cops, and the ones we keep need to be trained not to act like this or this. I don’t know about fewer teachers, but the we should make sure our most experienced ones are in the toughest classrooms rather than cushy administrative positions.

Justin Samuels October 17, 2012 - 6:36 am

Before the MTA gets more capital funding it needs to find ways to get costs WAY down. They are now saying it would cost 23 BILLION to do a full length Second Avenue Subway?

Unless the MTA finds ways to get costs down, even doing Phase 2 remains a distant policy.

I know a lot of complicated work has to be done, utility relocation and all, making sure buildings are not damaged by subway construction, etc.

But even there, 23 BILLION? The state would have a very hard time raise all of that at once, so would the city.

Bolwerk October 20, 2012 - 8:52 am

Not to say that the costs aren’t outrageous, but raising the funds all at once is never necessary. $23B is offensive because it’s so unnecessary, not because it’s impossible.

Justin Samuels October 20, 2012 - 7:03 pm

Exactly, Bolwerk, its so unnecessary. If the MTA found a better way to price its capital projects, there’d be a lot more support for it. Blowing 23 billion on just ONE subway line basically kills off other public transportation projects. If they find ways to do the 2nd Avenue subway considerably more cheaply, then the savings can be used to reactivate the abandoned parts of the Rockaway Beach LIRR (a connection to the Queens Blvd line, perhaps), and to reuse other abandoned LIRR lines going through Brooklyn, and Queens.

Well, there’s some hope for capital projects, including the ones I just mentioned. Depending on who wins the election in Nov. we may see more support federally for public transportation infastructure. It will really be up to the MTA to lobby the FTA and Congress for funding for the full length Second Avenue Subway, and the reactivation of the abandoned parts of the LIRR.

Henry October 20, 2012 - 8:08 pm

Just my two cents, but I think the MTA should spend money fixing up what it already has before embarking on large extension programs. At the very least, its stations should be structurally sound and the water damaged stations should be fixed.

They did say the next Capital Plan would focus less on extensions – maybe they’ll fix stations more aggressively this time around.

nycpat October 16, 2012 - 12:45 pm

The natural payers for the system should be the real estate industry. What is land in Manhattan worth without a subway?

Justin Samuels October 16, 2012 - 6:22 pm

NYC Real Estate interests are among the most powerful interests in the city . Making them pay more for taxes? Political suicide to any major or city council member. No one would DARE even try.

Andrew October 16, 2012 - 10:09 pm

Do you feel the same way about roads, or only about subways?

alen October 16, 2012 - 9:30 am

the MTA unions thank you for financing their annual 10% raises for the last 10 years. as well as the no co-pay health insurance plans

Larry Littlefield October 16, 2012 - 10:52 am

I think you are over-estimated their raises. They got double the rate of inflation, 4 percent per year, from an arbitrator after the Great Recession started because the city had given the teachers that much before the recession.

Now the teachers want double the inflation rate because that’s what the TWU got.

alen October 16, 2012 - 10:58 am

there was a strike years ago that lasted a week or so where they got something like 8% per year for a few years. then another contract a few years ago they got a decent raise as well. and while most people pay $400 or so per month for family health plans plus copays these guys pay almost nothing and no copays.

that’s why prices are going up

Bolwerk October 16, 2012 - 12:13 pm

NYCTA wages and job benefits/entitlements* are not particularly egregious. That’s a myth the tabloids thump to rile up their gullible, semi-illiterate neocon/randroid readerships, who suck it down hook, line, and sinker. The egregious part comes in the form of rigid work rules and over-generous pensions, causing or compounded by overstaffing. A sensible staffing level and rational organizational roles would be a lot more helpful than sending everyone’s wages into the burger flipper direction.

* Except that such benefits/entitlements are reserved for the civil service class, and the people who pay the bills – that’s us – don’t get them too.

Larry Littlefield October 16, 2012 - 1:01 pm

“There was a strike years ago that lasted a week or so where they got something like 8% per year for a few years.”

You must be talking about 1980. Even with that raise, the pay of public sector workers was cut severely relative to inflation in the late 1970s and early 1980s, because inflation was running high. That’s one reason the city was able to recover from the retroactive pension deals of the Lindsay Administration.

Raises are meaningless without considering the value of the dollars they are priced in. But the bottom line is the TWU got 4% raises with inflation at 2% and most workers gettting at best wage freezes or perhaps cuts. MTA managers got a wage freeze. Now TWU workers are also in a wage freeze, which means their real pay is falling 2 percent per year (though the cost of their health care and pensions continues to soar).

alen October 16, 2012 - 1:34 pm

cry me a river, i’ve seen health plans in good companies that cost $500 per month for a family with copays, coinsurance, the works. asking the TWU to pay a $5 copay is not that big a deal.

i have no sympathy for their whining when everyone else is paying more for everything and brings home the same salary

WMATA Rage October 17, 2012 - 4:19 pm

All I can hear is “some people are getting decent benefits and rather than trying have those extended to all working people, I’d like to see nobody at all have them.”

nycpat October 16, 2012 - 1:29 pm


Larry Littlefield October 16, 2012 - 9:59 am

“These statements right now are a true sign of a focus on the cause of the problem, but they cannot stop today.”

Actually, it is yesterday that is the problem that cannot be stopped. Until this is thrown in people’s face, they’ll continue to sell out tomorrow.

“New York City Transit already has the highest fare box operating ratio in the nation at 53%. That is the share of operating costs covered by fares.”

And New York City has just about the highest state and local tax burden as well, as a percentage of its residents’ personal income. More than 50% above the U.S. average. It was about 33% above average in FY 2002.

“MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said in September that “when you compare the public support given to mass transit agencies nationwide on a per customer basis, New York ranks at the very bottom.”

But I’ll bet if you examined it on a per capita (all city or metro area residents) basis, or a taxes for transit per $1,000 of personal income basis, it would be at the very top. Because so many people use mass transit here.

Chris October 16, 2012 - 1:50 pm

I think you need to separate “support for the MTA” for “support for transit riders”.

Transit riders, sure, would like a lower fare today. But it’s clear if you want a healthy MTA in the long term that this is a silly way to spend any money you manage to pull out of Albany. Dollars you spend reducing fares are dollars you can’t invest in the system. Political capital spent fighting fare hikes is capital you can’t spend fighting obstables to efficiency or fighting huge capital allocations to competing systems like the road network. And in the long run the more the MTA is a ward of the state rather than an independently healthy business, the more it will be a political football and run the risk of unfriendly legislators damaging its health; independent revenues are its best defense.

The MTA as an organization faces many problems these days but “the price point is too high” is not one of them.

WMATA Rage October 16, 2012 - 2:30 pm

I was pretty sure (not that I’m biased or anything) that WMATA had the highest fare revenues in the country (save BART) at 52%, and that NY was at more like 42% (http://wmatarage.tumblr.com/po.....the-nation). Maybe I was misreading the budgets all the transit agencies put out, but…

Larry Littlefield October 16, 2012 - 2:38 pm

Well, since I got an I-Mac at home and unzip programs are blocked in the office, I can’t download data from the National Transit Database anymore.

So Ben, instead of passing on these reports why don’t you download the data from the latest year and check out the operating cost ratios by mode? If you don’t want to analyze it, you can e-mail it over to me.


Boerumhillscott October 17, 2012 - 8:07 am

Two issues with the math that I saw:

First off, the numbers include all MTA services, not just NYCT. To compare to the DC area, you would have to include MARC, VRE, and some suburban bus services.

Second, it appears that bridge and tunnel tolls are not counted as fare box recovery, but brige and tunnel maintenance are counted as expense.

WMATA Rage October 17, 2012 - 4:23 pm

Ohhhh, very good points, those. I guess the moral of the story is that all transit needs larger subsidies, but I’m just preaching to the choir on that one.

Someone October 16, 2012 - 5:12 pm

Why would the MTA cost the most to operate if it is the most ridden subway system in the US?

nycpat October 17, 2012 - 12:49 am

Does it cost the most per passenger mile? I doubt it.

Larry Littlefield October 17, 2012 - 9:31 am

The subway is the cheapest per passenger but not per passenger mile, because the trains move slow and stop frequently.

The best measure of cost across modes is cost per revenue vehicle hour. The subway is cheaper than other mass transit, even though bus system don’t have to maintain their own stations and rights of way.

But it is still more than New Yorkers can afford. The only attempt so far to actually fund the system on an ongoing basis, including ongoing normal replacement capital, is the CBC. It required higher fares, tolls and taxes and cost cuts. Lots of pain all around.

Any atttempt to put that off creates more pain later. As has been done for 20 years.

Henry October 17, 2012 - 7:21 pm

It’s 108 years old, a lot of stations were poorly built and maintained and suffer from serious structural problems, it’s the biggest subway system in North America, and somewhere in the top 5 biggest in the world, and fares have been kept at artificially low levels for political reasons. Also, MTA has a hard time with keeping good management people because they’ve had no raises for the past several years.

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