Sunday, April 26, 2015

Paying More for Less

About a month ago, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) increased the fare to ride a New York City subway or bus, from $2.50 to $2.75.  While a quarter may not seem like a substantial increase for some, it certainly adds up, and is especially vexing for riders that claim the transit system is performing more poorly than ever.  To afford the recent hike, some riders are giving up small luxuries, such as morning coffee, or “Taco Tuesdays.”  No matter what riders are giving up, they are in effect being asked to pay more for worse service

The 110-year old subway system carries approximately 6 million riders daily, yet without major infrastructure improvements the system will continue to eek along, infuriating riders that will continue to experience overcrowded trains, long delays, and limited service.  One study found that weekday trains arrived late at their final stop 36% more in the 12 months ending January 2015 than in the same period the year before.  Even MTA officials have admitted that service is not where it should be, with the President of NYC Transit saying that passenger experience is “miserable.”

The MTA’s capital plan to improve the system calls for $32 billion over 5 years, but only $17 billion has been budgeted, leaving a gap of $15 billion.  And while the increasing fares help stem the fiscal drain, the fact remains that riding the subway is heavily subsidized, with fares making up only 40% of operating revenue. 

New York is not alone in the increasing need to address its public transit system – DC, San Francisco, and Chicago must find the political will to allocate money for capital improvement projects for their systems, all of which are facing more riders and worse service.

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