Home Fare Hikes Poll: Pick your fare hike poison

Poll: Pick your fare hike poison

by Benjamin Kabak

After an election and weeks of waiting, the inevitable became reality as the MTA announced its fare hike proposals for the looming 2015 rate increase. Taking pains to stress the latest jump — the fourth hike in seven years — is a “limited” one, the agency noted that it amounts to only around two percent a year. On the one hand, that’s good news, but on the other, that means a fare hike in 2017. But we knew that already.

“The MTA is keeping its promise to ensure fare and toll increases are as low as possible, and these options are designed to minimize their impact on our customers,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast said in a statement. “We have cut more than $1 billion from our ongoing expenses, but a modest fare and toll increase is necessary to balance our budget against the increased costs of providing the bus, subway, railroad and paratransit service that is the backbone of the region’s mobility and economic growth.”

It’s still up for debate whether the smaller hike was a good idea, and the details are as we heard last week. Take a look at the table below. The full proposals for the express buses, commuter railroads and bridges & tunnels can be found here.

Proposal Base Fare Bonus 7-Day Card 30-Day Card
1 $2.75 11% with $5.50 purchase $31 $116.50
2 $2.50 None $31 $116.50

Yet again, the MTA is giving the public a choice, and the agency heads will hear from those members of the public who choose to voice their views during public hearings from Dec. 1-Dec. 11. Based on the pressure from rider advocacy groups who have identified the pay-per-ride discount as a key incentive for less well-off riders, already forces are lining up behind Proposal 1, but that would mean the second straight fare hike with an increase in the base fare. The MTA notes that under Proposal 1, the average swipe would be $2.48 while under Proposal 2, the average would be a straight $2.50. Even with the small difference, it’s hard to ignore the psychological affect of the discount.

For me, a regular user of the 30-day monthly, the fare hike is an inconvenience. I’ll have to pony up $54 per year more for my rides one way or another. I don’t have a strong preference, but do you? Let’s open it up with a poll.

Which fare hike proposal would you prefer?
View Results

You may also like


Sunny November 17, 2014 - 11:57 pm

I used to be for Proposal 1, but after seeing that the effective fare is pretty much the same, I’m going to move to Proposal 2. The MTA admitted in their own documents that something will be needed to address the spare-change issue if Proposal 1 be enacted, either education or reducing the bonus to 10%. I don’t think having some form of confusing “bonus”, especially as small as 5%, is worth it. Most transit agencies I know have gone away with such percent-based bonus systems, either just charging straight fares, or offering percent discounts only when buying a set amount on a card, not putting the bonus on every fillup (BART).

That said, I’m disappointed that the MTA is just sticking to these “traditional” fare hike methods of increasing the base fare across all services, and not touching the little elements behind the calculations, such as the number of rides on a pass (both subway and commuter rail), adjusting the discount on commuter rail off peak tickets, the number/time of transfers, etc.

It should be noted that NICE does not plan to raise their local fare to match MetroCard fares.

minderbender November 18, 2014 - 8:37 am

This is basically my thought as well. I was going to vote for Proposal 1, but I realized it forces people to do a bunch of unnecessary math (or just deal with a bunch of unnecessary stress) to no real purpose. Using a simple, easy-to-understand fare is good for riders.

The only real advantage of Proposal 1, or something like it, is the potential to gouge out-of-towners who are perhaps less likely to buy in large increments, and who are unlikely to be able to use odd amounts of leftover change (whereas residents can roll the amounts over and so lose much less on average). If the numbers were big enough this might convince me to support Proposal 1, but of course the MTA can’t admit that is what is motivating it.

Sunny November 18, 2014 - 10:50 am

I don’t see how leaving the spare change behind makes money for the MTA – it’s a bonus, not cash they received from the passenger, anyway. It might reduce loss, but it’s not a net revenue. Leaving the bonus behind isn’t the same as buying a fare and not using it.

John November 18, 2014 - 1:11 pm

But there are probably people who buy more than they need, so they get the bonus, and end up not using it all. Like maybe they need $5 for two rides, but they buy $7 (made up number) to get a bonus (thinking they’ll use it eventually), but only end up using the $5 after all.

minderbender November 18, 2014 - 3:58 pm

Think about it this way. A customer pays 10% more but gets an 11% bonus. He almost never manages to spend the bonus, and in fact the mathematics basically compel him to leave unspent money on his card. Shouldn’t the MTA regard that as profitable? It may be true in a technical sense that the unspent money is “all bonus” and therefore doesn’t accrue to the MTA, but the MTA is still coming out way ahead.

MRB November 18, 2014 - 4:49 pm

The real kicker is that the marginal cost of giving more rides is essentially zero – they aren’t going to add any more service in the near-term under any circumstance.

johndmuller November 19, 2014 - 6:55 pm

MRB says:
… the marginal cost of giving more rides is essentially zero …

That’s an interesting notion; I wonder where it might lead.

Larry Littlefield November 18, 2014 - 7:25 am

Rather than have Gene Russianoff rant about how the fare is increasing and people are being cheated in the hopes of having the MTA borrow more money to keep the fare low for his generation (until it collapses), I’l vote for #2.

The MTA eliminated dual fare zones, introduced monthlies, added a Metrocard bonus, and cut the fares by a huge amount in real dollars, contributing (along with the cutoff of general revenue support, retroactive pension increases, and soaring contractor pricing) to the disaster that will either get much closer or continue to get much bigger.

But the Straphangers continued to pretend that none of that had happened and, scream about the rise in the base fare. Since then my view has been freeze the base fare, raise everything else, and along with the truth announce how little the fare has gone up in “Straphanger Math.”

sonicboy678 November 19, 2014 - 7:52 pm

You seem to really have a beef with the Baby Boomers to the point where you accuse someone in that generation of simply trying to keep the bonuses around only for said generation’s benefit; meanwhile, there are others that may benefit from the bonuses, especially the Millennials and Generation Z.

Larry Littlefield November 18, 2014 - 7:28 am

Where is the option that has LIRR fares rise more than the fares for the other services, to make LIRR riders rather than subway riders pay for the fact that the LIRR has been less efficient, more corrupt and higher paid?

Where are the articles pointing out that subway riders, drivers, and MetroNorth riders are being forced to pay for that ripoff, which (no wonder) Long Island politicians must be continuing to support?

Uncle Moe November 18, 2014 - 7:48 am

Good question but why stop there? NYCT buses have LIRR-like cost recovery ratios so we should raise the bus fare more too, starting with a $3 fare if you insist on dropping coins. And express bus riders pay the least towards the true cost of their service. My guess that fare needs to climb more like 40% (not 4%) to pay the freight.

Bolwerk November 18, 2014 - 10:32 am

Heh, Larry thinks we should “cut costs” by replacing the LIRR with a bus network.

Larry Littlefield November 18, 2014 - 10:51 am

That fact that this could work out just shows how bad the LIRR is.

Bolwerk November 18, 2014 - 11:14 am

Obviously I agree the LIRR is awful, but I somehow doubt that proposal would do anything but make both regional traffic and regional transportation costlier and more congested.

Larry Littlefield November 18, 2014 - 3:30 pm

Thus you agree that no matter how bad a job they do, and how much more they blackmail us, the MTA should just keep paying and shift the cost to NYC? You’ve got the Governor in your court.

Bolwerk November 18, 2014 - 9:25 pm

No, it’s just that your proposal was more expensive, and shifts even more costs to NYC. Reforming the LIRR is the only option.

lop November 18, 2014 - 10:13 pm

Was the point a cheaper system using buses? Or bust a union using buses while you train a new workforce to maintain the rails?

Larry Littlefield November 19, 2014 - 9:51 am

First of all, at this point it isn’t just the union at the LIRR. It’s multiple unions and management.

If effect, they own the railroad, which is a monopoly, and can charge everyone else unlimited amounts to use it.

The mentality is they have a right to all of this, regardless of how it compared with the deal everyone else has, because they’ve got it. Asking them to provide a fairer deal won’t work. Forcing them won’t work either. You’ll get a failure to work, or vandalism. The problem with the disability scandal isn’t the cost of the disability pensions. It is an attitude that affects what is done from the first day your political connections get you that sinecure on the LIRR.

As long as it’s a railroad it can neither be reformed nor busted. That’s the evidence of 50 years. If it were a private company doing this I’d say have the government take it over. But we tried that and the attitude survived.

Thus the desperate proposal to turn the tracks into express busways east Jamaica, and the LIRR into a subway west of Jamaica, with a connection there. Yes you couldn’t MU the buses. But you could hire an entirely new workforce to drive and maintain them, and maintain the roads.

Bolwerk November 19, 2014 - 10:55 am

Eh, the state could pass a law tomorrow changing what kind of contracts can be offered at the next renewal. You need to bust the state legislature, not the railroad.

Your “solution” is a massive capital expense and big hiring binge. It goes without saying that labor and capital investment funds are probably the two most abused elements in the wider MTA umbrella.

adirondacker12800 November 19, 2014 - 11:10 am

The LIRR isn’t wide enough to carry all the buses that would be needed to carry all the people who use the LIRR.

Alon Levy November 18, 2014 - 1:45 pm

Other way around: where is the option that, in recognition of best industry practices in most developed countries, LIRR fares within the city are equalized with subway fares and transfers are made free, so city plebs can use the commuter trains?

Eric November 18, 2014 - 2:18 pm

Yeah, wouldn’t that be by far the easiest and cheapest way of relieving the Queens Blvd crush? If a few trainloads of passengers boarded LIRR at Woodside or Elmhurst or Forest Hills, then the E would be a lot less crowded in rush hours. A similar system in the Bronx might help somewhat with crowding on the 4/5/6.

adirondacker12800 November 18, 2014 - 4:32 pm

The get on the E because they are going someplace other than Penn Station. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to get on the M, change the LIRR to get on the E to get to the World Trade Center. Or Rockefeller Center. Or onto the R to go to the LIRR to get to Herald Square where the R is to get to Union Square. Or get off the 7 to go to Grand Central. Or…

Eric November 19, 2014 - 4:53 am

No of course the LIRR doesn’t serve EVERYONE’s trip. But there are a lot of people traveling to Midtown. The LIRR currently serves Penn Station and in a few years it will serve GCT. Many of these passengers would prefer an uncrowded express ride on LIRR tracks to a crowded E train, if the LIRR had equal integrated fares and a reasonable schedule. Not all E riders would prefer this, not even a majority of them. But enough would that the E would be much more pleasant to take.

Bolwerk November 19, 2014 - 10:10 am

I don’t get this constant sneering about Penn Station. Regardless of how imperfect the location, it is within walking distance of probably 40% of the biggest business district in the country.

adirondacker12800 November 19, 2014 - 11:14 am

If you are in Kew Gardens on Queens Blvd. and want to go to Times Square which is faster taking the subway or the LIRR? Or Union Square? Or Grand Central? Unless you are within a few blocks of one of the few LIRR stations and want to go someplace within a few blocks of Penn Station the subway is faster.

Bolwerk November 19, 2014 - 11:57 am

So you can’t identify an actual problem? The trains are running already. The point is to lure people to them with an equalized fare. Some of those people happen to be going to Penn or thereabouts.

Eric November 19, 2014 - 12:36 pm

“The trains are running already.” – This might not technically be true, in that there might not be space on the trains for the extra passengers. But there is space on the tracks to add extra trains.

Bolwerk November 19, 2014 - 1:12 pm

Well, I don’t know for sure, but AIUI there is standing room at the very least. That’s sufficient for a trip of 15m.

adirondacker12800 November 19, 2014 - 4:41 pm

And that makes using the LIRR which is farther from my origin then the subway and farther from my destination from the subway attractive in what way?

Eric November 20, 2014 - 2:04 am

For some people it’s further, for others it’s closer. Clearly it will be more attractive to the second group.

pete November 18, 2014 - 9:14 pm

Do you want dirty thieving minorities on your LIRR train? That is the obvious reason why. Also think about why is city ticket only weekends, and not all off-peak hours?

Dan November 19, 2014 - 12:35 am

Plenty of the peak LIRR & Metro-North trains are already packed as it is. That said, if there is capacity at the terminals to receive shorter-run local trains that make all Queens/Bronx stops, then yes that might be worth doing.

The Port Washington Line definitely does this with locals to/from Great Neck (making all Queens stops) and expresses to/from Port Washington (first/last stop usually at either Bayside or Great Neck). This works because Great Neck does have a pocket track to turn trains.

Bolwerk November 18, 2014 - 7:52 am

Leave the unlimiteds alone, or even cut their prices a bit, and hike the base fare to $3 or something. I expect transactions under $10 are especially unprofitable.

Eric Brasure November 18, 2014 - 9:53 am

I have the exact opposite opinion–raise the 30-day and keep the base fare the same. Raising the base fare disproportionately affects those least able to pay. Paying an extra $54 a year in travel costs for the unlimited is de minimis to me.

Bolwerk November 18, 2014 - 10:34 am

Assuming unlimited users are automatically better off financially, which I wouldn’t be so sure about. The important thing is to reduce transaction costs. Discounts for small transactions don’t make sense.

The right agency to make up the difference for the pay is the city or state, not the cash-strapped MTA.

Alon Levy November 18, 2014 - 12:15 pm

For all of the reasons JJJJ mentions below for Option 1, keeping the unlimited-to-pay-per-ride ratio low is the correct option. Not that the MTA ever intends to do walk-on POP anytime soon, but if it chooses to join the second half of the 20th century, it will find it’s easier to do it when most customers are already prepaid.

adirondacker12800 November 18, 2014 - 1:37 pm

There is no easy way to check if a MetroCard is for a few rides or an unlimited. Not that they would be able to enforce it on the subway. Assuming it’s uncrowded enough for the inspectors to get through the car when you see an inspector just get off the train before they get to you.

Alon Levy November 18, 2014 - 1:45 pm

Not on the subway, but on the buses, which aren’t that crowded.

Bolwerk November 18, 2014 - 2:43 pm

No need to check everyone. Check people at random and fine the evaders you catch enough to make up the lost revenue. POP isn’t working right when there is zero evasion!

adirondacker12800 November 18, 2014 - 1:56 pm

POP would be nearly impossible to enforce on the subway.

Eric November 18, 2014 - 2:35 pm

When trains are too crowded, you can enforce it among crowds waiting at the stations.

adirondacker12800 November 18, 2014 - 4:37 pm

which is what turnstiles do.

al November 19, 2014 - 4:24 pm

Go further. Contact less payment with swipe in-swipe out turnstiles for MNCR and LIRR…add NJT and AMTRAK to the mix. It would enable 2 man crews on 8-12-16 car trains and Engineer only operation on single car trains.

adirondacker12800 November 19, 2014 - 5:24 pm

Swiping at Penn Station or Grand Central is gonna work real well.

Larry Littlefield November 19, 2014 - 9:10 pm

Tapping could work fine.

Just waiting for the banks to roll out the chip cards. And waiting and waiting.

Bolwerk November 18, 2014 - 2:35 pm

He probably means buses, but even the subway it could be useful to cut collection costs on future branch lines. If there ever are any.

Avi November 18, 2014 - 8:25 am

I’m glad to see the base fare is going up. Better to move the base fare instead of maintaining the importance of an $x base fare. Remember when the $2 base fare was the psychological barrier that we couldn’t cross.

sonicboy678 November 18, 2014 - 11:02 am

Echoes of the nickel fare…

David November 18, 2014 - 8:54 am

I’m for proposal 2 because I think proposal 1 penalizes the less affluent riders who are using single and/or two ride cards. They never even get the bonus so for them this fare hike means a lot less than proposal 1.

sonicboy678 November 18, 2014 - 11:03 am

Ironically, that setup costs more than the others.

Ryan November 18, 2014 - 9:03 am

I’d like to advance proposal #3.

Base fare $2.50, daily fare ceiling of $15 (every ride you take today is free after you pay the base fare six times), hike the cost of the 7-day pass to $55, and replace the 30-day pass with a straight monthly pass (so you could be getting 30, 31, or 28 days) for $175. No bonuses whatsoever.

This does a few things. First of all, it normalizes pass purchasing – you’re always buying exactly 12 monthly passes in a year and you’re never having to do ridiculous mental math involving the pennies on the dollar you get from the “bonus.” Second of all, it restores the 1-day pass in a roundabout way (and restores it in such a way that it isn’t an absolute giveaway like the old $4 fun pass was.) Third, it normalizes the number of paid-for trips that go into the pass price calculations: 6 for one day, 22 for seven days, 70 for a month. This more accurately reflects the amount of travel done on a weekly or monthly MetroCard (Bed-boss-bar-back every day for 5 days a week or an average of 21 days a month produced 15 and 63 trips respectively) without having to resort to ridiculous measures like the “fare floor” I saw proposed in another comment chain. Finally, instead of putting off the looming threat of “what happens when we hit that $130 benefit cap,” going right past it forces us to deal with that issue now. Much like the $2 base fare was a psychological barrier, the transit benefit (assuming it doesn’t expand) is a similar barrier and we might as well smash the window now instead of later.

BenW November 18, 2014 - 9:33 am

What’s the benefit of forcing “us” to deal sooner with the fact that Congress doesn’t like transit users very much? It’s not like it’s a mystery what will happen—a bunch of people with monthlies will start paying somewhere in the range of (for your proposal) $100-150 more in income tax each year. This is not the end of the world, but lots of LIRR and MNR monthlies are already way over the cap, and that doesn’t seem to have forced anybody to deal with anything.

eo November 18, 2014 - 9:33 am

I would really like $3 fare with similar increases for all other services (commuter rail, express buses and tolls). The average person has forgotten that transportation is something that needs to be paid for, something that needs to be invested in. I am really sick of people constantly complaining about the cost of transportation when it is really cheap in reality. The same people who complain that now they have to pay 25 cents more per ride or as Ben calculated above $54 more per year with the 12 monthly passes are the same people who drop hundreds of dollars every year for new iPhones and pay hundreds of dollars to the wireless carriers so that they can post stuff on FB or watch the latest funny cat video on YouTube. I just do not see why we as a society cross subsidize the average person’s short term entertainment needs instead of making them pay for the service that allows them to get to their job and be productive members of society. But then, most people do not want to be productive members of society, they just want to be entertained …

adirondacker12800 November 18, 2014 - 10:23 am

Because the people who drive everywhere get even bigger subsidies? And any alternative to the subway and commuter lines would cost more to run. And would need a lot more infrastructure?

Quirk November 19, 2014 - 4:57 am

He’s probably another car guy masquerading as a subway/train customer.

P.S.– Socially awkward people that way. (to your used car)

JJJJ November 18, 2014 - 10:04 am

Heres something I never see talked about: Does option 1 bring in more revenue?

Option 1 encourages people to put more money on their card in one transaction. As we know, credit card swipe fees can eat up enormous sums of money. Under option 2, more people might elect to actually buy – and swipe their credit card – every ride, while option 1 makes it more likely that theyll make a larger purchase that will require less visits to the machines.

Aside from the credit card swipe fees, less visits to the machine means…
-Less maintenance needs
-Shorter lines (better experience)

On top of that, more money on metrocards = more money in the MTA piggy bank = more interest.

AKA: The gift card model.

eo November 18, 2014 - 11:07 am

Just for my education — I always thought that the credit card fees were a percentage of purchase, is that not so? If it is percentage of purchase then the size of the purchases does not matter.

JJJJ November 18, 2014 - 12:02 pm

Someone could correct me if I am wrong, but I think there are minimums that are a fixed amount. Like a swipe for $2.50 would cost the company 25 cents rather than 3 percent. Thats why so many stores have $5 or $10 minimums when using a card, or a 25 cent charge for purchases under those amounts to offset the fee.

lop November 18, 2014 - 10:23 pm

It’s probably both, 15-30 cents base + ~2 percent of charge.

Herb Lehman November 18, 2014 - 10:38 am

The whole idea of “bonuses” for non-unlimited cards rubs me the wrong way — and I also see enough people in my line of work who struggle to pay for a single $2.50 base fare — so I voted for Proposal 2. Though JJJJ makes an interesting case for Proposal 1 from the MTA’s perspective that I hadn’t considered before.

In a perfect world, of course, it would be nice to see better service for the extra fare. It’s frustrating to pay $100+ per month to ride a 6 train that runs 5-6 minutes apart during the dead of rush hour half the time, then is so late and overcrowded that it has to skip my stop anyway. (Obviously, the world is far from perfect, particularly MTA world.)

Larry 3 November 18, 2014 - 10:39 am

The bonus is useless. Proposal 2 is a better deal.

sonicboy678 November 18, 2014 - 1:05 pm

The bonus is useless to you; what stops it from being useful to someone else? I’m sure at least a good part of our population would prefer to keep the bonus, and it doesn’t have to involve wealth (or a lack thereof).

Larry 3 November 18, 2014 - 2:49 pm

The bonus is useless as is and MTA makes the riding public to add more money to the card to exact fare for a ride. It has nothing to do with wealth.

It would be better if it is a higher percentage like 20% to make a better deal. Today, it’s a joke. Remove it.

Bolwerk November 19, 2014 - 1:14 pm

A bonus makes perfect sense. It rewards people for making bigger, less costly transactions.

sonicboy678 November 19, 2014 - 7:31 pm

It serves to benefit those who use pay-per-ride cards, especially if they already have difficulties with money for any reason.

Alon Levy November 18, 2014 - 12:05 pm

Option 3: $3.00 base fare, no pay-per-ride bonus, unlimited monthly stays at $112 until the base fare goes up to $3.50 and then is pegged to 32 times base fare. Here in Stockholm, the pay-per-ride fare is 25 kronor, which is $3.40 in exchange rate terms and $2.75 in PPP terms, but the unlimited monthly is 790, which is $107 in exchange rate terms and $87 in PPP terms.

But if I have to pick an option in which the unlimited monthly costs 46 times as much as a pay-per-ride, then option 2 is less confusing. I like the pay-per-ride discount idea, but these strange bonuses mainly work to make it harder for people to buy an even number of rides.

Ryan November 18, 2014 - 12:51 pm

32 times base fare is far, far too low considering that the average New Yorker is certainly using the subway and/or buses at least 64 times in a month (and the actual number is likely somewhere between 75 and 100). 46 is not much better.

An appropriate monthly pass discount relative to paying per ride is 15%, 20%, perhaps even 25% – not 50%, and certainly not the effective 65% discount your “32 times base fare” yields for anyone riding the subway 90 times a month.

At that kind of “discount,” frankly, you should take the single ride fare away entirely and start forcing everyone to pay by the day for unlimited usage.

Alon Levy November 18, 2014 - 1:49 pm

First, day passes are for tourists (that said, Zurich offers them for twice the cost of a single-ride ticket).

Second, the point are to stiff people who ride occasionally, i.e. tourists and bright and tunnel folks, and to incentivize paying in advance in order to reduce fare collection costs. An unlimited monthly user hogs a TVM once a month, or even less if there’s an annual pass with monthly auto-pay. A single-ride user hogs a TVM twice a weekday, often at rush hour, creating long lines.

Ryan November 18, 2014 - 7:35 pm

TVM overcrowding is a problem of the technology – technology which is very far out of date and due for replacement.

Instead of fixing the problem by cheating ourselves out of a whole mess of revenue, I’d rather fix the problem by dumping MetroCard entirely and moving our fare collection technologies forward into the 21st century, where 90% of riders will pay in advance from their computer or their smartphone app or from an auto-magically reloading card, leaving only the luddites and the bank haters and the extremely impoverished as the only people who actually need the TVMs.

Nathanael November 19, 2014 - 12:38 am

Anyone with a clue will be a luddite. The “autopay” stuff is basically a license to have your bank account cleaned out by hackers.

Bolwerk November 19, 2014 - 12:09 pm

I understand dumping cash collection at some stations, but only because the capital expense of electronic options can probably be provided for three figures per station at this point.

Of course, anybody unfortunate enough to end up in something like ChexSystems (e.g., lots and lots of poor people) will need to pay with cash.

Having the MTA store your bank account information? Bad idea, methinks.

johndmuller November 19, 2014 - 8:36 pm

Being a luddite is becoming increasingly difficult these days, unless one wants to live off the grid as a survivalist in some cabin in the Yukon. It takes a lot of effort to avoid using any kind of hacker friendly tech – even this site could be a little dangerous (i.e., if someone hijacked the email addresses). On the luddite side, though, it seems that there will always have to be some kind of accommodation for cash customers, even if it might be inconvenient, like having to buy it at a newstand.

I don’t know that the MTA is really trying to do a lot of the things that are attributed to it – like ripping off tourists, for example – rather, I think that they are trying to find some sort of middle ground where public outrage is held to somewhat of a bearable level. [Imagine a ‘squeaky wheel’ pun here.] As to the bonus, well some people like it and some people don’t – so sometimes the MTA is nice to the bonus and sometimes they aren’t.

Advance purchase is really its own reward in that you don’t have to deal as much with the machines and the associated hassles and unpredictability. Some people might even pay more for the privilege.

Alon Levy November 21, 2014 - 10:42 am

Does that actually happen in Germany and Switzerland?

Alon Levy November 21, 2014 - 10:41 am

In Shanghai, there’s TVM crowding if some TVMs break down (as 2 out of 3 TVMs did at the train station one time) because it’s not easy to get the Shanghai Public Transportation Card. New York actually does good by making it easy for people to obtain MetroCards from a machine.

eo November 18, 2014 - 5:50 pm

The average New Yorker may or may not use the pass 64 times, but the average user of the system does not use it that often because probably quarter of the users are commuters out of NYC or the far areas of Queens and Staten Island and only use the system twice a business day for no more than 42-44 rides per month. For those people it is about even that they pay per ride or get the pass. If the idea is to make the people who cause the peak overcrowding pay, then you want to raise the base fare and make the monthly at least 44 times as expensive, maybe even 50. Then anyone who actually lives in the city and uses the subway not only during the week, but also the weekend gets a break which I think is proper. This is effectively what the current ratio of the cost of the pass and the single ride accomplishes.

Alon Levy November 18, 2014 - 6:19 pm

For off-peak discounting, many German cities offer discounted passes that are valid only after 9 or 10 am each day.

Ryan November 18, 2014 - 7:27 pm

The idea is to normalize the cost of the weekly and monthly passes relative to the amount of usage. Right now the ratio is massively imbalanced in favor of the unlimited ride passes and that needs to change.

If the idea was simply to make the peak overcrowding users pay more, then there’s an easier way of accomplishing that that’s already being used by this very city on our commuter rail systems: charge more during the peak.

I’m personally not for that, but if your goal is to charge the most to the peak users, there it is.

Larry 3 November 18, 2014 - 2:53 pm

Why $3.00 so high up?

Christopher November 18, 2014 - 12:47 pm

Who are these people who try to buy an even number of rides? Only from what I can tell, are transit geeks. It never matters if you can keep adding more to your card, right? Or perhaps the extremely OCD would even bother to do the math. Caveat I say this as someone who has way too many WMATA cards and BART cards lying around that required me to spend $20 to get the ATM/CC minimum. But I’m not alone, I know people who save the Metrocards for years to cash them in. The bonus is nice (although I voted for 2 as it seems simpler to understand. The bonus is like the lottery or the extra dollar I get for putting $20 on my laundry card, a little gift but not one I plan for.

Herb Lehman November 18, 2014 - 1:19 pm

The few times I’ve gotten a Pay-per-Ride, I’ve arranged it to get an even number of rides, and I’m not a transit geek. There are calculators that spare me from doing the math myself, thankfully. The MTA doesn’t provide good enough service to give them extra money – I’d rather that money be in my own pocket. As for merging the cards, that means dealing with a station agent. No thanks.

Joe Steindam November 18, 2014 - 2:48 pm

This is unrelated to the larger discussion, but having just used the DC Metro and used a credit card to fill up the SmartTrip card, you can definitely put less than $20 on a fare card at a time. I was able to put $8 on the card in a single transaction with a credit card. The machine defaults to adding $20 when you elect to pay by credit card, but you can change it, I don’t know what the smallest transaction allowed by credit card is.

Also if you have WMATA paper farecards lying around, you’ll want to get rid of them as soon as you can, since WMATA is discontinuing their usage by the end of next year.

To your larger point, even as a transit geek, I tend not to care about calculating the amount to add to a card to get the bonus to create a full number of fares. I know that I will keep adding value to the cards, and I know that I can move the remainder value to a new card when the current card is set to expire.

johnny johnson November 18, 2014 - 8:41 pm

$3.50 single ride (for tourists) and a 40% bonus if you put at least $50 on the card and the monthly need to go up to $120 at a minimum.

tacony November 19, 2014 - 10:24 am

Raise it to $2.75 for peak hours but remain at $2.50 off-peak. If grandma wants to return a library book at the mid-Manhattan branch and she can save a quarter by waiting until 10:30 to swipe in, maybe she will. Reduces delays during peak hours and raises revenue for those who pack the trains.

sonicboy678 November 19, 2014 - 7:39 pm

The goal is not to use a system which is more convoluted than it already is simply because of time. When you consider what this may end up doing, it may simply lead to constant peak shifts. Honestly, people may have to get to work or get back home, but your proposal would only change when peaks occur instead of truly addressing the problem. This would also lead to situations where people have odd balances on their cards, which happens to be something people care about most with the bonuses. It would also do absolutely nothing to Unlimited cards and effectively make the already-ridiculous Single Ride option even more ridiculous since all equipment would require more extensive calibration so as not to freak out whenever said cards are purchased…every hour/day.

BenW November 20, 2014 - 11:18 am

Peak pricing is used on a very large cross-section of mass transit systems in the US (somebody with more international experience and/or free time can chime in about the rest of the world if it seems appropriate), and does not actually result in noticeable shifting of peaks—probably because, as you point out, people need to get to work (and most people don’t have the luxury of moving their work start and end to save 25¢). The goal for a system like New York (or D.C., which actually has peak pricing) would be to spread the peak and discourage discretionary trips when the system is under high load—I don’t know how well it works, but that’s the goal. (Honestly, I think that the peak loads on the Lex and the Red Line do a pretty good job of discouraging discretionary trips all by themselves, but that’s not a statistically useful observation.)

The practical arguments against it given the current infrastructure are pretty strong, though, as you point out. Though a quibble about the impact on unlimited pass holders: some systems with peak/off-peak and unlimited-ride passes do combine the two, and have you pay a surcharge cash (or cash-equivalent) if you’re riding at peak on an off-peak pass. This, of course, just adds another layer of complication to the ones you’ve already described, so it doesn’t in any way reduce the practical impact (quite the opposite)—I think the more common response would be to assume that the unlimited is for commuters, and charge it at full fare. Which introduces other complications, as demonstrated up and down this page, but at least in that case the complication doesn’t slow people down in the act of paying?

Setting all that aside, of course, the political problem with peak pricing in New York would be the same as the problem for zone pricing: the richer you are, the more likely you are to have a short commute that you can reschedule to avoid the peak fare.

Billy G November 26, 2014 - 8:05 am

The system is used by more than those just commuting to their jobs… those that have jobs, anyway.

Let any discounted cards for seniors (later), school children (hopefully earlier), or non-workers (later) only work in the system during off-peak periods.

This accomplishes the goal of discouraging travel for those people during work rush to distribute the load.


Leave a Comment