East Elmhurst resident Crystal Diaz, a full-time student who also works part time in order to support her two-year-old daughter, is a frequent mass transit rider.
Riding the Q13 bus to drop her daughter off at a day care facility the day after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced its two proposals to raise fares for mass transit riders, Diaz was less than excited.
“The hike stinks; it’s more money out of our pockets,” Diaz said. “This will leave me penniless.”
The MTA recently proposed two fare hikes, each of which would increase single-ride fares on subways and buses from $2 to $2.25, with one plan offering riders discounts if they used mass transit during off-peak hours.
The first option increases the base fare by 25 cents as well as increases the price of a 30-day MetroCard by $3 from $76 to $79. It also increases the 7-day Unlimited Ride MetroCard from $24 to $25 and fares on Express Buses from $5 to $5.25.
The second proposal would charge riders who purchase a minimum $6 MetroCard $2 during peak hours and $1.50 during off-peak hours - hoping to entice riders to travel during off hours decreasing the congestion on the system. It also would increase 7-day Unlimited Rides to $26 and 30-day cards to between $81 and $82.
The two proposals are part of an effort, which would also increase fares on Metro North and Long Island Rail Road lines as well as at bridges and tunnels, to raise money for future capital projects as well as projected deficits the authority expects to encounter in 2009.
However, many riders and elected officials have reacted coolly to the proposals.
“The idea of the MTA telling us that we have two choices - fare increase A or fare increase B - is utterly preposterous,” said City Councilmember John Liu, who chairs the council’s transportation committee. “They totally left out the real option - no fare hike until they really need it.”
Liu said that the MTA asking for a fare increase with a projected surplus near $1 billion for the end of this year was beyond reason.
“Given the authority’s past history of squandering surplus, it is not in the public interest to hand over to them an even bigger surplus,” Liu said.
Gene Russianoff, a staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign, said that the fare increases were too steep.
“The 25-cent increase in the base fare is too much,” he said in a statement. “So is the $82 30-day MetroCard. They are too great a burden to put on many vulnerable New Yorkers.”
Some Queens residents said that although the hike was steep, it would not deter them from using the rails.
“I’m not overly annoyed, but after six months it would really add up,” said Charles Park, a Hunter College student who rides the LIRR to Penn Station and then takes the subway to class.
Russianoff also said the proposals left many unanswered questions including what times would be considered off-peak and would that incentive actually decrease ridership during peak hours.
The MTA plans to hold hearings about the proposals before it makes a recommendation in December.
Additional Reporting by Nina Sen and Kristin Edwards