Fares Raise Commuters’ Dander

Last week the Metropolitan Transit Authority announced potential fare hikes for 2008. The MTA is expected to make a final vote in December, and the new plan would get under way late February or March. The debate is not over, but I feel the message that the MTA is trying to send is unclear. Raising fares is supposed to be a last-resort, but recently the MTA seems to be raising fares frequently (one variation of the proposal would make it possible for the MTA to increase fees every other year). If the city is encouraging commuters to live more sustainable lives, including using mass transit, it needs to consider other ways to raise money to support the MTA.

Two options were offered: raise unlimited monthly MetroCards to anywhere between $79 and $82, or introduce a split fare system where rides will cost $2 for peak and $1.50 for off-peak hours. Even though both proposals also include new 14-day unlimited cards ($45-$48), which I think is a good idea, I think both these options are flawed.

At first look, it seems as if the split fare system is a better option. If you are not already purchasing unlimited cards, as long as you purchase a card $6 or more, you will save more money under this program than the current one. Raising single rides to $2.25 will not affect a majority of people. However, Bobby Cuza of NY1 put it profoundly: “In other words, the only people paying full price would be those who can only afford to buy one or two rides at a time.”

On the other hand, the unlimited monthly MetroCard is the lifeblood of commuters in the city. As Mayor Bloomberg pushes for plaNYC and congestion pricing, and encourages more New Yorkers to take advantage of the city’s infrastructure, it sends a mixed message to also raise fares for those who are practicing what he is preaching.