As you stand across from a mouth-breather with halitosis, gagging on your subway ride to work as the train crawls at a snail’s pace, you might think: This can’t get any worse.
Wrong! The MTA is meeting today to finalize raising the base fare from $2.75 to $3, and the 30 day unlimited from $116.50 to $121.
Since 2009, fares have gone up every other year. To get some perspective, it cost fifty cents to ride the subway in 1980. According to InflationData.com, that fifty cents has the same buying power as $1.46 in 2016. So adjusted for inflation and giving the MTA four cents extra, the fare should be $1.50 today, right?
Wrong again! Haven’t you noticed the faster service? Less crowding? Fewer breakdowns? Me neither. Which makes me wonder how the MTA justifies yet another hike. Retiring MTA chairman Tom Prendergast says the increase is necessary to maintain safety and reliability.
Some blame the fare boosts on inflated pensions and health care costs for MTA workers. Others point to the lack of adequate government funding.
Mismanagement of the MTA, which is billions in debt, certainly doesn’t help. The grossly underestimated cost of the Second Avenue Subway is but one example. If the MTA were a private business, it would have gone bankrupt years ago.
“We’re keeping fares and tolls as low as possible,” insists Prendergast. Tolls are certainly “as low as possible” on the East River bridge crossings. They’re free.
This creates constant backups on the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, while the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel ($8 cash toll, $5.54 E-Z Pass) is often virtually empty.
Last year, two bills were introduced that would remedy this situation. Modeled on a plan by Sam Schwartz’s Move NY coalition, the legislation would install tolls on the East River bridges (while lowering other tolls). This would not only balance traffic flow, but raise substantial revenues to help keep subway fares down.
Subways provide city employers with a steady supply of labor. But when low wage workers are paying 10% of their salary to get to and from their jobs, something’s off track. Fair tolling and the new revenue stream it provides would go a long way in correcting this injustice.