Fare Hike Ahead

Straphangers can see there’s trouble coming.
Image Courtesy Andrew Hinderaker

Anyone can badmouth the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. It’s easy: trains are late, buses are slow, stations are dirty and fares are high. But that’s all just finger pointing. Changing the MTA and how New York State supports it: that’s the challenge. That’s what will change things. And that’s exactly what Transportation Alternatives is doing.

This summer, Transportation Alternatives fought for—and won—$29 million worth of service improvements in dozens of communities around the city. In every neighborhood where T.A.’s transit campaigners held a Town Hall—from the northern Bronx to southern Brooklyn to eastern Queens—the MTA restored bus routes that were cut in recent years. They were eight for eight: that’s an impressive average.

And that’s the kind of advocacy T.A. is bringing to bear on the MTA’s planned fare hikes. The Authority has said that it needs to raise the average cost of a ride on New York City subways and buses by 7.5 percent in 2013. They have proposed a number of ways to hit that target number, including raising the base fare from $2.25 to $2.50 and reducing the discounts given to straphangers who purchase monthly, weekly or large-denomination single-ride MetroCards. Regardless of how they reach that figure, the increase marks the fourth fare hike in five years. That’s simply unacceptable.
But it’s not all the fault of the MTA. Remember: blaming them is easy, changing things is hard. That’s why Transportation Alternatives isn’t simply fighting to stop the hike, but also demanding that Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature increase Albany’s contribution to the MTA’s budget and secure new, sustainable revenue streams that can’t be raided, rejected or repurposed when someone in power feels like that’s the right thing to do. Those reforms will protect riders’ wallets in the long term.

Transportation Alternatives has already enlisted more than 16,000 New Yorkers in its effort to stop the hike, and plans to enroll thousands more before the MTA holds hearings in November. T.A. is also organizing with elected officials, like State Senator Gustavo Rivera from the Bronx, to ensure that their message is heard loud and clear in the halls of power.

Will these efforts prove as successful as T.A.’s earlier campaign to restore service? Only time will tell. But one thing is for certain: the only way to change the system is to let the MTA and elected officials in Albany know that New Yorkers want better transit service, that they won’t pay more for less, and that subways, buses and trains are an issue that can move voters to action, so speak out and help stop the hike.