Brooklynites will get the first shot tonight at telling the MTA why its proposed fare hike is a taxpayer ripoff. In the next two weeks, residents of the other boroughs, Long Island and Westchester will get their chance to rail against the hike that would, at the least, increase the base fare from $2 to $2.25 among other changes. The Manhattan meeting is set for the Hotel Pennsylvania on Thursday at 6 p.m.
One of the most astounding things is that the MTA is pitching a 12.5 percent fare hike because it bought faulty MetroCard machines that can’t make the right change. First reported by the News‘ Pete Donoghue, the paper editorialized about it thusly:
The punch line is: The Transit Authority. And the setup is: Who would be stupid enough to buy 1,650 fare machines that cannot make proper change?
Incredibly, that is exactly what the agency did when it installed the machines that dispense MetroCards for cash. The devices can return only two denominations of coins at once, not the four coins – nickels, dimes, quarters and silver dollars – necessary to handle any transaction.
Which, even more incredibly, is the reason the TA is proposing to hammer straphangers who buy individual rides with a whopping, unjustified 12.5% fare hike. The single-ride fare is now $2. Under the TA’s plan, it would jump to $2.25.
Increasing by a quarter is do-able because the machines can dispense dollars and quarters. Insert $3, and you get three quarters in change. Insert $5, and you get two silver dollars and three quarters back.
And if you have any questions about the timing of the increase, the New York Times has an excellent piece about how governors like to get the nasty business of hikes done early in their terms so they are not fresh in voters’ minds come reelection time.
Officials at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority have tried to frame their proposal for higher subway, bus and commuter rail fares as a departure from past increases. They say it should be seen as part of a long-term financial plan, with a fare increase next year to be followed by an increase in state and city subsidies down the road.
But if the fare does go up next year, it will share at least one trait with most other fare increases of the last four decades: It will fall into a well-worn spot in the political calendar by coming near the beginning of a governor’s term.
The transportation authority was created in 1968 as a semi-independent body tied most closely to the governor’s office. Since then, subway and bus fares have gone up 12 times, and half of those increases occurred during the first 13 months of a governor’s four-year term.
Each time a new governor was elected, a fare increase was approved within a year of his taking office.