The MTA has, for better or worse, made a biennial habit out of fare hikes. As part of a master plan hatched a bunch of years ago, the MTA committed to raising the fares every two years in an effort to maintain steady revenue streams. Although the current fare hikes outpace inflation, the MTA is also working to overcome a significant fare decrease from the late 1990s brought about by the introduction of pay-per-ride discounts and unlimited MetroCards. On average, we pay less per ride today than we did in 1996.
The riding public — the folks that don’t pay much attention to the ins and outs of transit policies, politics and economics — will be caught off guard by the 2015 fare hike. Due to pressure from Gov. Andrew Cuomo who was trying to avoid any whiff of bad news in the lead-up to last week’s Election Day, the MTA has remained tight-lipped about the fact the fare hike is happening or any details regarding the proposals. Now that the Governor has assured himself of another four years of whatever he’s doing, the unofficial MTA news embargo can finally be lifted, and we can talk about good news such as higher subway fares for all!
Now, gone are the days that politicians lived and died by the nickel fare, but the fare hike process lends itself to a special set of outrage. The MTA is legally obligated to go through a public hearing process, and it’s largely a charade. People will express outrage over higher fares while probably bringing up two sets of books over and over again while politicians bemoan the system they refuse to support. The MTA raises the fares anyway, usually based upon plans drawn up months before.
So as we gear up for the hearings, what does the future hold? Pete Donohue, tell the audience what they’ve won:
The MTA has drafted two possible fare-hike schemes for bus and subway riders — one that keeps the $2.50 base fare stable and another that raises it by a quarter. But both models would increase the monthly MetroCard by $4.50. The two scenarios were fashioned in advance of public hearings that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will hold next month. The MTA board may not vote on a final package until January, but the increases would still go into effect as scheduled in March.
According to sources, the two fare-hike options are:
Option One: The base fare would remain at $2.50, but the 5% bonus would get trimmed. The 7-Day MetroCard goes up a buck, to $31, while the 30-Day MetroCard rises $4.50, to $116.50.
Option Two: The base fare is boosted by 25 cents, to $2.75, and the bonus increases from 5% to 11%. The 7-Day and 30-Day MetroCards are the same as in option one: $31 for the 7-Day card and $116.50 for the 30-Day pass.
Metro-North and the LIRR will be raising fares took, and Andrew Tangel of The Wall Street Journal reports that MTA Bridge & Tunnel tolls for trucks could increase by as much as 12 percent.
It’s hard to get too worked up one way or another over this proposal. The MTA had previously committed to a smaller-than-planned fare hike this year and stuck with it despite a huge capital funding gap and higher-than-anticipated labor expenditures. The fare hike is again whittling away at the pay-per-ride bonus, and to that end, I think a higher base fare with a more generous bonus is better. But higher base fares always affect those who can least afford it. Either way, I’ll be paying $116.50 (before tax, of course) for my 30-day card soon enough.
Which brings me to another point: As the federal government can’t do anything these days, pre-tax transit benefits are currently capped at $130 per month and seem to be stuck there. In the not-too-distant future, the MTA is going to hit that ceiling for 30-day cards, and then we’ll see what happens in Washington. For now, we’re facing another modest fare hike and one the city will have to resignedly accept.
It will be interesting to see what happens when the commuter rail fare charts come out. The 4% fare increase directly effects the one-way peak fare, the fare from which all of the commuter railroad’s other fare types are calculated off of. However, only a fraction of the commuter railroad’s passengers actually travel on the whole, undiscounted one-way peak fare. The railroads offers a myriad of other different ticket types that have their prices all calculated at different discounts and multipliers that save the frequent traveler money. Although it’s not that likely, the railroads could theoretically change the way these discounts are calculated, and, as a result, see an increase in revenue that is far greater than the 4% fare increase we’re planned to see. Things like eliminating off-peak fares, reducing the discount that monthly and weekly commutation ticket holders get, or reducing or eliminating the discount that those currently eligible for reduced fares can get could all drastically adjust how much revenue the MTA can earn from next year’s fare increase…
Can congestion pricing be revisited with proceeds used for some combination of capital improvements and fare subsidization?
For the capital plan the MTA has ten billion, wants to borrow six billion, and has a fifteen billion dollar gap beyond that. So they need at least three billion per year. Moveny raises one billion per year for transit. It helps, but funds just one third of the capital plan, never mind subsidizing fares.
unless there is a hard promise and funding to extend the subway to the people who are going to be paying the congested pricing, don’t bet on it
It may be time to seriously consider a multi-tier fare structure for the non-unlimited portion of the MTA. The idea here would be to increase fares when ridership is at its highest, but offer lower (and in some cases, significantly lower) fares during less-traveled hours when service levels are lower (and to make it so only those who have to travel in peak periods are using the system as much as possible):
One scenario I would do is to have an “off-peak” unlimited ride MetroCard that would work like a regular MetroCard except it’s main purpose would be for those who mainly ride outside of peak hours (for example, those who work Noon-8:00 PM and even more so for those who work weekends) and would be unlimited during those times. These would be sold at a discount from the regular MetroCard (perhaps $25 for the 7-day and $95 for the 30-day) and include two peak rides on a seven-day and 10 peak rides on a 30-day to allow for the handful of times such do have to actually ride during peak hours.
Otherwise, I would look at a $5.00 peak fare (from 5:30-10:00 AM and 3:30-7:00 PM on weekdays, excluding major holidays) BUT set those up where those who can complete a round trip in four hours or less can re-enter for the return trip without being charged again. Such would include three subway-to-subway (or bus-to-subway, etc.) transfers for that purpose.
Weekday off-peak I would make $3.00 except from 11:30 PM-5:30 AM (Monday-Thursday) when the fare would be reduced to $2.50. There can be an extra transfer added that would be valid even during peak travel time if travel started in an off-peak period.
On Friday nights, the fare would be reduced to $2.50 and would be such from 10:00 PM Friday-2:00 AM Sunday.
From 2:00 AM Sunday until 1:00 AM Monday (plus major holidays), the fare would be reduced further to $1.50 to encourage families to ride more on Sundays (1:00-5:30 AM Monday would be the same $2.50 fare as the rest of the week in the overnight). This fare would also be in effect on “Black Friday” and after 7:30 PM on both Christmas Eve through 1:00 AM on Dec. 26 (Dec. 27 when Christmas falls on a Sunday and Monday is the legal holiday) AND New Year’s Eve until 1:00 AM on January 2 (January 3 when New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday and Monday is the legal holiday).
That’s how I would look at it. This I should note would be just a preliminary structure that can be tweaked, designed to encourage those who don’t have to ride during peak hours to avoid doing so as much as possible.
If someone rides a QB local in the morning from Elmhurst ave to woodhaven that doesn’t cause the same strain on the system as someone riding an overcrowded q25 to Flushing where they cram onto the packed 7 train and transfer at GC to the lexington line to get somewhere on the east side.
The idea is have it so people who don’t need to travel during peak hours and can do so later (or in some cases, earlier) in the day when trains are less crowded do so as much as possible.
My point was not all points in the system are equally congested at peak. If a train or bus isn’t close to full during someone’s trip charging extra because the Lexington line is full doesn’t seem fair.
It’s not just the Lexington Avenue line:
There are many other business districts besides lower and Midtown Manhattan and other major areas, including Downtown Brooklyn and parts of Queens. Many of these are on Manhattan-bound trains in the morning or coming from Manhattan in the afternoon/evening and add to the number of passengers riding. The idea is if those who are not going to Manhattan in the morning in particular can hold off on traveling until after the rush hour would pay the lower fare. Spreading out the crowds more evenly would be the goal.
Is a Jamaica bound E train crowded in the AM for the entire time it’s in queens? Or do the crowds really lighten up once the people boarding at Penn get off on the east side? Yes many parts of the system are congested, and raising fares for people who use those parts of the system to even crowds over the course of the day could be appropriate. But it should not be done in a manner that also places a surcharge on use of uncongested parts of the transit system.
Is the metro card capable of time of day pricing? If the next fare payment system is, it would hopefully be able to charge based on entry and exit points, at least on the subway and SBS lines with off board payment. Adding a peak surcharge only to some trips that actually face congestion would be better than adding it to all trips, whether or not there is any crowding at that point in the line where the trip took place at that time of day typically. The downside is it would further increase complexity
“The idea is have it so people who don’t need to travel during peak hours and can do so later (or in some cases, earlier) in the day when trains are less crowded do so as much as possible.”
Why would a person travel during the peak hours “when they don’t need to travel”? And just how is “need” defined – internally by the person, or externally by some authority?
Considering that NYC has rarely had a transit fare system based upon the time of day/evening on its buses and subways (except for some half-fare program examples on certain nights and weekends in the 1970’s), most subway and bus riders do not “wait to travel when the fares go down”.
Most subway and buses simply go where they have to go when they have go. Plenty of people also have to interact with other folks who also have schedules to get things done, and to the things that they need to do. This is not really a case of people as “un-connected individuals” whose actions have no relationship to the actions of others.
Most folks do not a “time to be there elastic issue” – meaning that they can wait around for a better time to travel. Most folks have a “I have to be somewhere at a certain time” issue. Not many jobs offer telecommuting or “flexible work hours” – plenty of folks have to be at certain places at certain times. Some trips are discretionary as in the riders can choose when they are going to travel – but that’s usually based on issues related to the destination, not on the fare being charged a person. (This is not like waiting for the vacation season to be over before traveling to Europe.)
Just what does a person “get” for waiting for a later time period to travel for something that is very important?
A lower fare, a less crowded train, a less crowded bus, a speedier ride? Transit is not like a movie theater that charges a lower matinee price for the early birds to fill up the theater. Are those “benefits” worth it considering the regular rhythms of everyday life, and the regular interactive schedules that plenty of people have?
Points well taken, however, some lines are currently bursting at the seams in the mornings in particular. Not everyone has to travel in the morning and/or afternoon rush, and the idea is to reward those who can adjust their schedules and are willing to do so with lower fares in order to better spread out ridership, even if only slightly (and overall while generating more money for the MTA at peak hours that would more than offset lower fares off peak).
In a car travelling during rush hour is often slower than later in the day because of congestion. With subways and even some buses the lower frequency off peak can make the reverse true.
How many trips would happen at 730 or 930 instead of 830am if it saved a dollar?
A five percent reduction in travellers 8-9 am on some parts of some lines would be great. You don’t need a large share to switch.
MTA Technology can’t even figure out how to implement countdown clocks on the B Division. You think they could implement something this complicated? It would also be incredibly consusing to the riders (especially the infrequent ones).
I wonder how much of any budget gap is caused by grossly unneeded services.
When the Montague Tunnel closed, my Bay Ridge councilman Vincent Gentile agitated for more X27 express bus service because the subway detours supposedly would be so arduous.
I don’t think that ridership on the buses increased much, but lets leave that one aside.
The Montague Tunnel has been rebuilt, R train service is normal, but the extra express buses are still running. There is such an overabundance of buses that many run with very light passenger loads during the week. But on Saturday and Sunday, very many of them run completely empty in both directions, morning, afternoon and night. This is an entirely wasteful service that the community does not use.
But if the fare goes up, City Councilman Gentile will be the first one to whine about it, even though he championed wasteful expenditures that made the budget gap worse.
How could the public input process be anything but a sham? Few members of the public know anything about finance, especially not the ones complaining at the hearings. How could they possibly find better sources of revenue or savings on the expense side to avoid the fare increase?
The public input process is useless, but the sham is “savings on the expense side” are basically ruled out.
This may have been true when I started this site, but the MTA’s cut expenses by around $1 billion annually over the past three years. Whether you believe they could do more is an open question, but they’ve definitely released savings on the expense side. That’s one of the reasons the fare hikes will be around 4.5% inside of 7-8%.
I don’t know about the past three years, but besides service cuts most savings I remember them actually achieving were capital-related or concessions from vendors.
What I meant was they aren’t actually going to, this year, cut unnecessary expenses because of the public input process. They might cut them in the long-run.
“On average, we pay less per ride today than we did in 1996. ”
Such a ridiculous statement.
Why not name the 50 years we pay more per ride with today than?
Why is the assumption that the highest fare ever was the correct amount, and anything below that was too cheap?
Back-of-the-napkin, you have to go all the way back to 1980 to find a time when fares were less in inflation-adjusted dollars than they are on average today. The 1980s ended a five-decade period of horrendous underinvestment in transit. Do we really want to revisit that for the sake of a fare comparison?
Why do you make the assumption that low fare = low investment in transit? Because that just happened to be the case 30 years ago? There are many examples of high fare = low investment. Or low fare = high investment.
Las Vegas raised the price of “the deuce” bus service from $2 to $6 (!!!) in four years. Do you think that came with additional investment? Of course not. Oh, wait, they pained half a mile of bus lane in the part of the route that never had traffic anyway.
Paris has a metro fare of eu1.70. They’ve invested billions over the past decade in improvements.
Why do you make the assumption that low fare = low investment in transit?
I don’t presume to speak for Ben, but it’s blatantly obvious why he’s making that assumption — because it’s true. The MTA has raised fares so aggressively lately to compensate for less state investment. That’s why the farebox recovery ratio for NYC Transit is so high. Riders are funding the system, and with low fares, there wouldn’t be enough money to run, let alone invest in, the subway system.
What point are you trying to make though? Because it’s not coming through at all. What other cities in America do one way with transit fares has not operative affect on the MTA’s decision process nor should it.
“That’s why the farebox recovery ratio for NYC Transit is so high. Riders are funding the system, and with low fares, there wouldn’t be enough money to run, let alone invest in, the subway system.”
Then it should be their job to do something about the lack of support, rather than shrugging their shoulders and raising fares.
Why would the state be willing to offer more support if they can sit back and watch the MTA ram through fare hikes?
Look at what SEPTA did last year. They said (to the republican Pennsylvania elected clown car) “you either give us all the money, or we shut down half the system”. They got the money.
Do you see what is happening to the school funding in Philly? Unless you take on debt – a dollar is still a dollar and has to come from somewhere. I wouldn’t want their fiscal issues.
So we have historically low fares – we also seem to have a relatively high percentage of cost recovery from the farebox. That combo does not seem so bad, really; imagine the opposite, where we have historically high fares and the cost recovery is nevertheless very low – which one would you pick?
Once upon a time, it was seemingly possible to build a subway from scratch, in an expedited time-frame to boot and operate the whole thing at a profit. Obviously the cost recovery then was higher than now, the ratio of recovery to costs being > 1.0, but what of the fares? Even at something like 15 cents, they might have been comparable to today’s longer commuter trip fares and were probably a considerably higher percentage of salaries.
I’m not sure what to make of all of this, as many aspects of life must have been quite different a hundred years ago and looking at just one item doesn’t give a very clear picture.
I have to say, maybe it’s time to get rid of the pay-per-ride bonus. The $1 Metrocard fee and higher price for a single-ride ticket have a similar effect in terms of getting people to buy larger amounts and reuse cards, and the bonus is confusing and leads to these seesaw fare increases.
Though, I suppose given small amounts of unspent change leftover on Metrocards, perhaps the MTA likes it that way, and it does allow the MTA to increase the base fare less often than they otherwise might.
We should have higher base fares and higher bonuses. Let the city figure out some way to help lower income riders pay the upfront cost. But we shouldn’t be subsidizing tourist trips so that low income riders can pay the cash fare.
That is what King County Metro in Seattle & Sound Transit are doing as a matter of fact.
Ben’s right. NYC subway and bus fares are very low by any metric. or as compared with other US and world cities.
Which is one of the reasons why the system is so heavily used.
The fares should stay low, but there shouldn’t be any empty buses or trains in service.
Huh? Thats not even close to true. Los Angeles, with over a million daily bus riders has a fare of $1.75, after this years fare hike. Chicago, the number 2 subway system after DC (which is hard to use to compare) charges $2.25. Boston charges $2. Septa is $1.80 with tokens.
What flat fare system, excluding gimmick lines (like airtrain or vegas monorail) charges a higher fare than NYC in the US??? There is none!
The exceptionally massive NYC system is open 24 hours and can be used for a ride of up to 31 miles.
Chicago kicks our ass only with its service straight to the airports
Otherwise for what you get, NYC is an eye popping value for the ages.
The distance thing is a red herring because nobody actually rides from end to end. Of course, I could counter that as of next year, youl’ll be able to ride 38 miles from end to end in LA for $1.70.
Incidentally, SEPTA introduced 24 hour weekend service recently.
Sure – and LA gets a much higher subsidy per rider… Not because it’s better run…
Ok so Philly added 24 hour service on 2 lines on weekends… That is not the same as having a full system running 24/7/365…
Plus there is no guarantee it will stay since they find the Night Owl bus service is more cost efficient.
Tri-Met in Portland also charges a flat $2.50, but the TTC in Toronto charges $3 as does their suburban transit systems
The Las Vegas Duce example from above is a bad comparison since ridership on that line keeps rising despite both hfare increases & a 2010 service cut. Believe it or not, the current Duce fare of $8 when compared to the monthly fare of $65 is a better ratio than what it was back in2000 at $2/ $40. The non-strip routes have a worse fare ratio today than back in 2000 though with $2/ $65 vs $1.50/ $40.
I made this to fend off some of the blubbering idiots of Gothamist. Chart from 1989 to 2014 of nominal fare (yellow), inflation adjusted fare (blue), and ridership in billions (red), with two trend lines.
Since the MTA is breaking all of their daily records this year, I’m assuming ridership will be up again, even with the fare hike. I’d raise it to 3.00 per ride (cutting the bonus), 40 for a 7-day, and 130 for a 30-day. I’d earmark the excess (above what is current proposed) exclusively for capital construction. That seems to be the price point where the MTA can maximize revenue without significantly impacting ridership growth.
Can you add minimum wage and median income to the chart?
Coincidentally Transport for London has unveiled its plan for the normal annual fares increase due to be implemented in January. I used the word plan – it’s already set in stone. Notionally fare are going up by inflation 2.5% but the actual prices of some of he tickets are extortionate compared to the very modest prces charged in New York. One example if live in zone 6 which is the outer rim of the London boroughs a one day Travelcard will cost £17. This entices one to unlimited travel within zones 1 to 6 for one day including the morning peak. £17 is roughly $ 27. No wonder London Undeground s making a profit and in part it explains how London finances its activities.
The distance between London and an example city in zone 6 (Elmbridge (Surrey)) is 20 miles. A similar distance, Penn to Rockville Centre on the LIRR is $12.50 each way. Or $25 round trip, which is essentially the same as the $27 in London. Whatw as that about NYC having reasonable fares?
LIRR is not the NYC subway…. By that token – you can also travel on Metro North for cheaper going the same distance… London is more expensive just about any way you cut it. Travel 241st to the Rockaways for $2.50 comparatively???? Not even close. My family in England loves how “cheap” NYC is and they dont even live in London because it’s so costly.
I have the pleasure of traveling to London on business every 3-4 months.
Its a great place but there isn’t one single thing – including subways – that isn’t cheaper in NYC.
As far as I know, it has been this way for at least the past 50 years, probably longer
Yes – I know it to be true… Which is why I would find it so amazing if there rail construction costs could be supposedly so much cheaper…
It’s been a few years since I was over to London, but last time I was, I recall that beer was cheaper there.
MTA is MTA, I dont give a shit if they brand it as subway or LIRR. We’re comparing distance apples to distance apples.
For 20 miles, MTA is as expensive as London
For local buses, MTA is MORE expensive than London.
And thats before the enxt round of fare robbery
Phantom was specifically referring to the NYC subway… So you should at least know what you are arguing about when trying to make one.
If you can’t understand the difference between how the subway operates and commuter rail – then oh well.
And you apparently have no idea how the outer zones of the tube operate.
You’re not getting the point…. Never mind.
London Underground DOES NOT make a profit and still relies on subsidy from the council (property) tax payer and from central government. Less than 50% (and closer to 40%) of TFL income comes from fares
The 2015 average increase of 2.5% comes on top of the 3.1% average we had at the start of this year. Travel cards went up by more than 4%.
And in January 2013 fares went up by an average of 4.2%
And that £17 Z1-6 travel card cost is for a paper ticket. Using Oyster the cap is £11.70. Very few people actually use paper tickets these days.
Actually London Underground is on target to covering all its operating costs and provide a surplus to TfL. I acknowledge that it is not profitable if we take into account all the capital programmes but nevertheless the income from the Underground is remarkable and it is growing and it will in part address the likely reduction in government grants.
My understanding is that generally TfL fares are considerably greater than New York’s ticket prices. There is certainly a perception that London is far more pricey. Is New York’s fare revenue broadly the same as London’s then?
Hard to compare because London has zoned fares and congestion pricing on roads in the core and New York has flat fares and it’s a free for all once you get into Manhattan.
A London bus costs £1.45, which is $2.30. And theres a daily cap. Thats less than the $2.50 NYC bus fare.
“And that £17 Z1-6 travel card cost is for a paper ticket. Using Oyster the cap is £11.70. Very few people actually use paper tickets these days.”
and if you buy a monthly ticket on LIRR it is much cheaper per ride… also – it’s not the NYC subway either – which is what Phantom was referring to…
As a reminder, the monthly fare on LIRR & MNR is half that of the peak one way. Or viewed another way, it’s like paying the senior rate for the month.
But with an LIRR ticket you’d also need a metro card to use the buses and subway.
The London travel card includes buses and underground too AND trains within zones 1-6.
Though I guess we are comparing apples with oranges because they are different products.
Who says you have to use the subways and buses?
Buy yeah – apples and oranges.
Just get rid of the bonus. It’s a needless complication at this point.
Also, 12% toll hikes? Yeesh. At what point do we admit it’s ridiculous that you can drive into Manhattan for free but must pay through the nose to get from Bayside to Throggs Neck?
Agreed on both counts – especially regarding the free major East River crossings.
It says for trucks.
Metro-North and the LIRR will be raising fares took, and Andrew Tangel of The Wall Street Journal reports that MTA Bridge & Tunnel tolls for trucks could increase by as much as 12 percent.
The issues are:
How to provide good transit and how who should pay for it.
Regarding drivers paying (with bridge tolls or congestion pricing) I feel that one needs to acknowledge that drivers benefit from mass transit even if they never directly use it. Traffic would be horrendous for them without the trains and buses. This is even true for those of us drivers who do not go into Manhattan as even their/our local trips would be slowed by the added Manhattan bound motorists.
This being said the benefit is not equal as the Manhattan bound/driving people get far more benefit than intra-borough drivers and those traveling between the outer boroughs. Also the benefit is much more for rush hour drivers than non-rush hour drivers.
As such tolls should not be the same for Manhattan crossing as the other crossings. They should be more during rush hour, less non-rush hour, and near free late nights or other times when one actually wants to encourage usage.
Years ago such varying tolls would have been hard to implement but now with Easy Pass the tolls can be sliding up and down in 5 cent increments thus avoiding crushes that would happen if the tolls changed substantially at a certain time.
Port Authority tolls to Manhattan are 13 dollars for cash, 11 dollars for electronic during peak and 9 off peak. Is there a crush when they change from 11 dollars to 9 dollars? Does 20 cents at 8:45 PM versus 8:55 really matter to someone who is driving into Manhattan?
Regarding the “two sets of books” claim, I hear people mention it all the time but I’ve never been able to find any good information on it. What was the claim? What was the alleged benefit to the MTA? Was it ever proven or disproven?
Get rid of the dollar-denominated “bonus” and return to the notion of paying for “fares”.
The object on the card should be very simple, a quantity of “fares”.
Make the fare on the subway and bus be the same.
Make the fare on the express bus be two “fares”.
No fractions of fares will be recorded.
Harmonize with PATH so “fares” are the same in terms of dollars so metrocard can continue to be used throughout.
Seems only “fare” to me.