New York

MTA Buries Fare Hikes In Weekly and Monthly MetroCards

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The MTA board voted to hike subway fares today, raising the cost of both monthly and weekly MetroCards. Monthly passes will increase to $121 and weekly passes will cost $32 beginning on March 19.

The hikes come after widespread condemnation of previous plans to raise the base fare from $2.75 to $3.00, something transit advocates said would place undue burden on low-income New Yorkers who already struggle to afford trains and buses. The last fare hike came in 2015.

The agency had two options to choose from, both which would have resulted in hikes for monthly and weekly passes. Seven-day express bus passes will also cost riders slightly more, going from $57.25 to $59.50.

While the new plan will keep the base fare at $2.75, the bonus riders receive when they add money to their MetroCards will go down significantly, from 11 percent to 5 percent, meaning fares for those riders will go up, from $2.45 to $2.61.

The second option would have raised the base fare to $3.00 — a plan widely condemned as devastating for the most vulnerable city residents—but it would also have increased the bonus to 16 percent. Calls for discounted fares for low-income and poor New Yorkers have thus far been ignored by both the city and the state.

Last year the Riders Alliance, a transportation advocacy group, introduced a campaign for “Fair Fares,” which would offer a discount to adult New Yorkers at or below the federal poverty line. The proposal calls for $200 million in city funds to pay for half-price fares for families who earn less than $24,300 annually, and for individuals who earn less than $11,800 per year. A Community Service Society report released last August found that one in four low-income New Yorkers can’t afford to use public transportation.

Mayor Bill de Blasio called Fair Fares a “noble goal” yesterday as he released the city’s new budget, but insisted that the city “can’t afford it,” and that it’s a problem for the state, which runs the MTA.

“I disagree strongly that the city can’t afford it. The cost of Fair Fares as we estimate is 0.2 percent of his budget. That is a small price to pay to do the exact thing [Mayor de Blasio] wants to do, which is help low income New Yorkers pull themselves out of poverty,” said Rebecca Bailin, campaign manager at Riders Alliance. “If they can’t get to work, then it doesn’t matter what else we do. This would go a long way in helping the mayor with his stated priorities. I don’t see why he wouldn’t do it.”

Riders Alliance launched a petition drive today to push Mayor de Blasio to amend the city budget.

Several board members chastised the agency for relying on riders to help them stabilize their budget, saying other options, such as a gas tax, could be a better option.

“Balancing the budget on the backs of riders is not the way to handle things…especially in a city like New York,” said Andrew Albert, a board member.

Some board members, including Albert and Veronica Vanterpool of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, voiced concerns about regular fare hikes that do not come paired with improvements in service, citing increased train delays. Vanterpool said discounts for struggling New Yorkers are long overdue. Still others expressed concerns about placing the burden on middle income New Yorkers who are assumed to be able to afford increases in the cost of monthly passes.

“We’re saying, essentially, once you get your job, we’re going to increase your fare to subsidize someone who doesn’t have [a job] and that’s a very bad message to send,” said board member Ira Greenberg. Greenberg said raising the base fare (which came combined with a raise to bonuses) would have been a better option, and suggested that the city ought to take responsibility in helping to subsidize the hike for New Yorkers who can’t afford it.