Home Fare Hikes A looming fare hike coming into view

A looming fare hike coming into view

by Benjamin Kabak

A fare hike is coming, and there’s nothing we can do to avoid it. When the MTA Board gathers to meet one final time during 2012 next week, it will voice its concern over yet another rate increase and then vote to jump fares anyway. When I started this site, a 30-day MetroCard cost $76; by March, that figure will be over $110. Just how much over we’ll find out soon.

In today’s tabloids, the word on the fare hike seemed rather definitive. Both The Post and The News ran similar stories on the rate increases. According to those two pieces, the base fare will increase to $2.50 with a pay-per-ride bonus that kicks in with any purchase of $5 or more of just 5 percent. The 30-day card will cost $112 up for $104, and the 7-day card will go from $29 to $30. That mirrors Scenario 4 put forward in October.

From what I’ve heard from sources — and also as reported in The Journal — these proposals aren’t quite proposals. They’re not written down yet, and MTA Chairman Joe Lhota is still floating them as ideas. Here’s how Ted Mann reports it:

Lhota has been calling MTA board members since last week to feel them out about the choices to raise fare and toll revenue. The MTA’s budget requires $450 million from increased fares and tolls in 2013, though the agency now plans to raise $382 million, thanks to better-than-anticipated revenues that prompted leaders to push the fare hike back until March…

One board member said Lhota had seemed to agree with one move to protect low-income riders: lowering the cost at which the bonus kicks in to as little as $5.

Still undecided, one person familiar with the discussions said, is the question of how much to raise tolls on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge between Brooklyn and Staten Island. Holding down the increase on that crossing would require the MTA to make up the revenue elsewhere, possibly by raising tolls slightly more than anticipated on other bridges in the regional system.

So we can conclude that it seems likely that the 30-day MetroCard will be $112, up $36 in six years, and that the base fare will go up. We’re not, obviously, seeing the $125 scenario, and I still believe that proposal was put forward to dull the pain of this “smaller” hike. Still, a fare hike is a fare hike is a fare hike, and unlimited ride card users will be paying much more come March. The past five or six years of fare hikes have fallen harder on their shoulders than on anyone else’s.


Lhota’s need to present a fare hike proposal in a week and a half throws an interesting wrench into the discussions surrounding his potential mayoral aspirations. Even though the 2013 fare hike was set long before Lhota took over the reins, he will be the face of the MTA presenting this proposal to the board and will thus have to be responsible for it. I can’t imagine it’s a political selling point to raise transit fares eight months before a general election while also running for a mayor largely due to the successful response of the MTA to Hurricane Sandy. Think of this note as food for political thought.

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John December 10, 2012 - 3:12 pm

More revenue needed? LOWER the offpeak tolls on BBT (“Gov Carey”)…it’s never used in lieu of 4th Av and the free NYCDOT bridges

al December 10, 2012 - 4:59 pm

We could put in variable congestion pricing on the tolled crossings with alternative crossings to maximize toll revenue. The Triborough and Henry Hudson Bridges, Midtown and Battery Tunnels all have neighboring untolled crossings.

Epson45 December 10, 2012 - 5:22 pm

$112 is too high. MTA should accept pennies!

BrooklynBus December 10, 2012 - 6:36 pm

I hope they reconsider the policy of transferring between, SBS and Limited buses to other local buses and the subway. You should be allowed to transfer between SBS or Limited and local bus and still be allowed make another transfer for one fare. Not allowing this limits the flexibility of the system.

Andrew December 11, 2012 - 8:44 pm

Your proposed three-leg transfer (like all three-leg transfers) is already available to people who use unlimited cards. How often do unlimited cardholders make this sort of transfer?

And simple two-leg SBS-to-local and local-to-SBS transfers are already available. How often are they used?

If, as I suspect, very few people make this type of transfer, then I would suggest that this is probably not an issue worth worrying about too much. SBS stops are generally spaced similarly to local subway stops.

BrooklynBus December 11, 2012 - 9:45 pm

B44 SBS proposes stops one mile apart in places. Too far too walk. And if someone uses a transfer to access the. SBS, that is no reason why he should be deprived of a transfer he had before the SBS route was instituted. Also, half the people don’t buy unlimited cards so you are talking about restricting system flexibility for a considerable number of riders by not allowing three legged transfers.

Andrew December 11, 2012 - 11:15 pm

If it turns out that the B44 needs an extra SBS stop, one can be added without much difficulty. It’s happened on the Bx12. Nothing’s set in stone.

I didn’t say that pay-per-riders don’t deserve transfers. I said that, if virtually no unlimited cardholders make transfers of this sort currently, then it’s quite unlikely that many pay-per-riders would take advantage of them either.

BrooklynBus December 12, 2012 - 9:42 am

What is your source that virtually no unlimited card riders make more than one bus transfer? Many trips require three buses.

Andrew December 12, 2012 - 10:19 pm

I didn’t say that virtually no unlimited card riders make more than one bus transfer (although the number is undoubtedly fairly small). I said that I suspect that virtually no unlimited card riders make transfers of this sort currently – the sort that you describe here.

Am I wrong? Perhaps. That’s why I used the word “If.”

BrooklynBus December 12, 2012 - 10:36 pm

I’m not sure what you are linking to and I’m afraid I’ve lost you.

You stated three legged transfers are not needed for pay per ride users because they are not used by unlimited riders. I asked you how you know they are not used because many trips require three buses. You responded that you are not sure and that’s why you used the word “if” and you could be wrong. So what exactly is your point? Why are you opposed to three legged transfers for one fare?

Andrew December 12, 2012 - 11:42 pm

You said that three-leg transfers should be allowed if they include a transfer between an SBS and its corresponding local.

I responded that I doubt that this is a common sort of three-leg transfer among unlimited riders (who can make as many transfers as they please at no extra charge), and that if I’m right, it really doesn’t make sense to worry about it much.

BrooklynBus December 13, 2012 - 11:12 am

You have no proof that it is uncommon and half the riders do not have unlimited cards anyway. People with unlimiteds do ride differently. They use the system for trips they would not make if they paid per ride for example. A three bus trip is less of a deterrent especially when buses are running often.

Anyway that is not the only case where you should have three-legged transfers. I enumerated my ideas on the fare policy in Sheepsheadbites last August. But since you already responded there and we already discussed it, there is no reason to give you the link.

Andrew December 13, 2012 - 9:39 pm

I didn’t claim to have proof that it is uncommon. I didn’t claim to be certain that it’s uncommon.

All I said was that (a) I don’t think it’s common, and (b) if my hunch is correct, it makes no sense to worry about it.

You are proposing a policy change, and good policymakers base their decisions on data. One highly relevant piece of data to be gathered here is the extent to which the proposed change is likely to come into play, which can be easily derived from swipe records of existing unlimited MetroCards.

More broadly, I would love to see the two-hour transfer privilege converted to a two-hour unlimited ride privilege, but I also recognize that doing so would come at a cost to the MTA, and that cost would need to be paid for somehow – perhaps by increasing the base (or discounted) fare by more than it would otherwise have to go up with the next fare hike. There’s no magic bullet.

BrooklynBus December 13, 2012 - 9:53 pm

It may not come at a cost to the MTA if it encourages new trips to be made by pay per ride customers who would not be making that trip otherwise when there is capacity available. There are many discretionary trips out there that people would make if its convenient and/or cheap. People are more likely to make trips if they can combine purposes and a time limit based fare rather than a vehicle based one would be more condusive to do that.

Andrew December 13, 2012 - 11:12 pm

The new fare policy would both reduce the price of existing multi-stop trips and induce new multi-stop trips.

But you are assuming that the lion’s share of ridership growth would not increase operating costs. I don’t see how that can be assumed. As with MetroCard-induced ridership gains in the late 90’s, much of the growth would cross peak load points, requiring increases in bus and subway service, increasing operating costs significantly, while fare revenues would either drop or rise far more modestly.

That’s not to say it would be a bad thing – on the contrary, I think it would be a very good thing. But it would also be a costly thing, and those costs would need to be paid somehow.

BrooklynBus December 14, 2012 - 12:11 am

Are you saying that the price of multi stop trips will be reduced because more will be shifting to unlimited cards if the break even point is lowered?

Andrew December 14, 2012 - 12:26 am

No, I’m saying that the price of multi-stop trips would be reduced because one single fare would cover all rides within two hours rather than only the first and possibly second rides.

Someone December 10, 2012 - 9:11 pm

If the MTA raised the 30-day Metrocard price to $116, then they probably would have some money to upgrade.

Phantom December 10, 2012 - 9:35 pm

I suspect that an awful lot of people who buy 30 day cards haven’t done the math.

Duke December 10, 2012 - 9:48 pm

Currently it is cheaper to have an unlimited if you take at least 50 rides in 30 days. With these new numbers that goes down to 48.

Since I’ve been using unlimited cards, the fewest rides I’ve ever taken with one is 59 (thank you Sandy). The most is 80.

Phantom December 10, 2012 - 10:11 pm

But most who don’t ride on weekends won’t hit those numbers

And if you occasionally take a day or two off for business trips, or take personal days, same deal. You need to plot your month beforehand to really know if it makes sense.

JJJ December 11, 2012 - 2:21 am

Which is why the 7 day is so much smarter to buy.

Alon Levy December 11, 2012 - 9:45 am

The average number of swipes per unlimited monthly per month in 2003 (or was it 2005?) was 56.

Phantom December 11, 2012 - 8:32 pm

Yes but that likely involves ” super users ” incl many who hand it off to co workers or family members, and a good number who are making a bad bargain

crescent December 12, 2012 - 1:37 pm

This is not correct. The current 50 is the highest it has even been since the unlimited introduction in 1998.

In 2003, the unlimited cost $70, the base fare was $2.00 but there was a 20% bulk discount. 70/(2/1.2)=42

Streetsblog New York City » Today’s Headlines December 11, 2012 - 8:58 am

[…] MTA Board Honing in On Plan to Raise Base and Monthly Fares (NYT, SAS) […]

Andrew December 11, 2012 - 7:27 pm

I’m not thrilled with the reduction of the bonus to 5%, and I think $5 is too low a threshold. Instead of designing an entire fare system around the poor, we should have a fare system that makes sense overall and provide appropriate subsidies to the poor (and only the poor) so that they’re not left out.

Otherwise, though, this is pretty close to what I wanted to see: a base fare of $2.50 and a 30-day unlimited fare of $112.

I wonder if Assemblyman Braunstein’s perfectly reasonable request will be granted.

Andrew December 13, 2012 - 11:13 pm

Wait a minute, why would the round trip toll on the Verrazano be any different from the round trip toll on the other major TBTA crossings?

In MTA fare hike, a $2.50 base and a $112 30-day card :: Second Ave. Sagas December 13, 2012 - 5:09 pm

[…] Wednesday’s board vote. The package of fare hikes across all MTA properties resembles the one discussed Monday and will generate $450 million in additional annual revenue for the […]


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