For Commuters, MTA Hike Could Have Been Worse

Macha Peña said that she already has a hard time paying for her MetroCard. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) voted on Wednesday to keep its base subway fare at $2.75, although it did reduce the bonus customers obtained every time they added $5.50 to their MetroCard from 11 percent to 5 percent. With the bonus, the fare comes down to $2.62.

On the other hand, weekly and monthly unlimited MetroCards did see an increase. The weekly fare went from $31 to $32 and the monthly one, from $116.50 to $121.

The MTA has been raising its fares twice per year since 2010 to ensure smaller, more predictable, below-inflation increases.

“Keeping fares and tolls down was possible because of the continued operational efficiencies and ways we have reduced costs while adding service and capacity along our busiest corridors, most recently with the opening of the new Second Avenue subway,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast in a statement.

Rafael Minaya offers his opinion on the new subway fare hikes. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

However, for low-income commuters, it is already a challenge to pay the current fare. “I work minimum wage, and it is never enough,” said 70-year-old Rafael Minaya, as he waited for the train in Times Square. The Dominican-born worker earns $8.44 an hour at a New Jersey factory.

“I don’t like it because many people are unemployed and there is no work. Everything has gotten very expensive,” said commuter Macha Peña, also from the Dominican Republic. At the moment, she is seeking employment as a nanny and says that she often has to stay home because she does not have enough money to pay for the subway.

Any increase in the underground transportation system disproportionally affects New York City’s low-income communities, as 58 percent of them depend on the subway to move about, according to a study done by the Community Service Society of New York (CSS). Among the people surveyed, 27 percent said that the cost of transportation has prevented them from finding work far from their home.

Francisco Lamb, 26, said that it “hurts” to pay the monthly fare. “The service is terrible and it has not improved,” said the manager of a SoHo store, whose father is Dominican and mother is Filipina. “It does not deserve an increase.”

Francisco Lamb will be affected by the monthly fare increase. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

“They are clearly listening to us, and the board is interested in helping people, but [the fare] was and will continue to be inaccessible for 1 out of 4 low-income New Yorkers,” said Rebecca Bailin, campaign director at Riders Alliance, a group advocating for lower fares.

During his testimony, City Council member Ydanis Rodríguez asked the MTA board to reject the increase. “Transportation is vital for jobs, education, medical attention, social services, family and much more. It seriously hurts our city when we put this right out of people’s reach,” said the council member and president of its Committee on Transportation.

Rodríguez is leading the City Council’s Fair Fare campaign, which aims to cut fares in half for New Yorkers living under the poverty level.

The proposal made by CSS and Riders Alliance also has the support of borough presidents Eric Adams from Brooklyn, Gale Brewer from Manhattan, the Bronx’s Ruben Diaz Jr. and Queens’s Melinda Katz. Still, it was not included in the 2018 budget presented by de Blasio on Tuesday.

Spokesman for the mayor’s office Freddi Goldstein said that they find that the proposal is “noble” but too expensive for the city. “Last year, in addition to the nearly $1 billion [and the additional $4.3 billion in indirect subsidies] that the city provides the MTA annually for its operations, we committed an unprecedented $2.5 billion toward the agency’s capital plan,” said Goldstein, recommending that the state consider assigning the funds.

Bailin explained that the cost would represent 0.2 percent of the budget and savings of $700 per year for 800,000 New Yorkers.

“It is a small price to pay for something that is easy to manage and would get people out of poverty,” she said.

Bailin and her organization will be working aggressively in the next few months to have the Fair Fare initiative included in the 2018 budget.

The new fares will take effect on Mar. 17, 2017.


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