Damaging Transit Fare Hike
the Straphangers Campaign at straphangers.org
Signs point to a major
transit fare hike early next year. The MTA claims to be running a $600 million
deficit-though this has not been independently verified-and some experts
believe that, immediately following the gubernatorial election, fares will
soar to $2. This is bad news for transit riders, employers and
environmentalists who want more transit and less driving. Transit riders
should be subsidized. They do not pollute the air, maim and kill pedestrians
and bicyclists, clog streets and delay emergency services and vital services,
or degrade the quality of life with honking, tire noise and speeding. In
short, transit riders-unlike motorists-are not inflicting huge
"externality" or "indirect" costs on the city and its
Before Raising Fares
Before considering raising fares, Governor Pataki, who controls the MTA board
and fares, should end unfair state transit aid funding inequities and consider
new revenue sources for transit, including:
- Reinstating the commuter
tax and dedicating it to city and suburban transit.
- Toll East River bridges to
raise $800 million a year.
- Payroll taxes earmarked
Transit Service Needs
Ridership on city subways and buses is at its highest level since 1953, with a
million more riders on an average day than just five years ago. But service
lags badly. Since 1996, annual subway ridership has risen 29%, but service has
only increased about 11%. Bus ridership has soared 50% in five years-from 435
million in 1996 to 722 million in 2001, but service has increased only 27%.
The result is crowding and
often slow and unreliable service.
The Average Fare Has Gone
Down, and That Is Good
Many riders are now taking advantage of MetroCard, like unlimited-ride passes
and free transfers between subways and buses. Average fares are between $1.06
and $1.07. These discounts have dramatically increased ridership and improved
mobility for many. But these discounts have not reduced fare revenues for the
transit system. The fare box has generated about the same amount-between $2
billion and $2.1 billion a year-since 1997, when the discounts started.
Riders Deserve More
Service and Less Crowding
It takes longer to go by bus from East Harlem to downtown than from New York
Riders know from bitter daily
experience how jammed and stressful is to ride our crowded subways and buses.
There should be a major increase in service, including guaranteeing no more
than a four-minute wait anywhere in the subways during rush hours.
Faster and More Reliable
New York City has the slowest buses in America. It takes longer to go from
East Harlem to downtown than to go from New York to Philadelphia! Buses should
given greater priority on city streets. And subway travel times have slowed on
some lines due to safety concerns. We also need modern subway signals to allow
faster speeds, more frequent service and greater safety.
The MTA should look at ways to make fare discounts more affordable and
attractive, including offering deeper discounts, selling bi-weekly passes, and
giving 10% off for purchases of $10 or less. And city families should get what
suburbanites already do: discounts when traveling with children.
Real Progress on Building
New Subway Lines and Modernizing Old Ones
A Second Avenue subway is vital to relieve crowding on the Lexington line.
Improvements are needed all over town, from rebuilding stations to buying many
more new buses and subway cars to increase service.
An Unfair Fare Burden
Percentage of operating costs
covered by fares, 2000*
58% New York City Transit/Subways and Buses
48% New Jersey Transit
44% Long Island Railroad
32% Los Angeles
*Source: Federal Transit Administration
Shortchanging Subway and
84% Percentage of transit riders in NY State carried by NYC Transit
63% Percentage of state aid going to NYC Transit
$325 million Cost of this inequity to NYC Transit
*Source: NYS Department of Transportation, 2001 Annual Report on Transit
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