By Abiola Fraser
Subway and bus riders will have to shell out another twenty-five cents per ride beginning in March if the MTA goes through with it’s plan to hike fares for the fourth time since 2009 when it used to cost $2 to ride the system.
Angry residents vented at MTA board members at York College on Dec. 5 at the first of eight public hearings about the proposed fare hike which would put the new base cost for a one-way ride at $3.
Students who rely on trains and buses to get to school railed against the proposal, especially given the dilapidated and filthy conditions of the train stations near the campus.
“The MTA should have protocols that are worth a fare increase,” said Tora Morris, 21, a Biology major. Some of these protocols, according to Morris, should include, “removing the homeless from the trains, and having more frequent train and bus services.”
Morris, who is one of many individuals who work and attend school, states that if the fare needs to increase, at least the riders should be comfortable while traveling.
According to the MTA website, there are two proposed options under consideration to increase fares by less than 4 percent, or 2 percent per year, in response to a financial forecast made in July.
The majority of the MTA’s annual operating budget comes from fares and tolls. However, with more plans to spread the money towards repairs and better services, the MTA still plans to hold fare increases to a minimum. MTA Chairman and CEO, Thomas F. Prendergast stated that the necessary increases with fares would be relatable with how necessary its effects will be for its customers.
“Wait what?” said Danielle Agatep, 20, when told about the MTA’s plans. “It’s not worth it because I’m paying more for the same crappy service.”
Anyone who rides the subways in southeast Queens knows they are notoriously filthy, populated by the homeless and frequently delayed making travel time wildly unpredictable.
“It’s not worth it because of the constant delays.” said Denisia Thompson, who lives in Queens and travels to work using the E-train and R-train lines. “It’s annoying how I would try to do things earlier than usual only for me to still be late because of the trains.”
Darius Valdez, 33, has been driving buses for the MTA for three years in the Bronx. He says he understands why people are upset by the fares constantly being raised and agrees that the fares should not rise so much.
According to published reports from the Daily News, the MTA has noticed that its system has been providing late trains, busses, and improper services and they agree that providing train and bus services at faster paces is an issue they need to work on.
According to the MTA’s website the increase is to ensure that the paratransit, bus, rail, and subway services continue to operate reliably and to support “the region’s economic and financial growth.”
Lisa Webb has been a MTA employee for over seven years and defended the agency’s efforts. “I feel like there have been improvements across the MTA, for both the buses and trains recently, with plans to continue making public transportation the most efficient way to travel,” said Webb. “The introduction of apps like Bus Time is a prime example. More stations will see upgrades over the next few years and a lot stations will receive Wi-Fi. Those are all indications that the money is being put to use.”
Webb said that while she understands the frustration of working people, she did not feel the rate hike would have a significant impact. “I don’t think there will be a protest about the fare increase,” she said. “This upcharge isn’t as much of a significant increase like the last one. This increase is only a quarter more.
“Not to say a quarter doesn’t add up, but at least the minimum wages are increasing next year. When I read that the city approved the minimum wage increase, I expected there would be a fare increase to follow. That’s how it goes. Wages go up and the cost of living follow.”
Many feel a sense of frustration tinged with powerlessness. “I’m stuck,” said Morris. “Fare increases or not, this is New York City, and this place runs on the MTA.”
“Of course, I don’t expect anyone to be happy about having to pay more,” said Webb “Like I said, a quarter does add up so I can see people being unhappy about the increase. For some people, NYC is already extremely costly so I understand completely.”
With next year coming quickly, many will be faced with a decision as to how they budget their money.
However, a quarter more is still a quarter more. “The same money I can use for the MTA, I can use to get a car,” said Thompson.
“Nowadays I don’t even take the bus, I take the dollar vans. And even then, the trains will still be an issue.”