Following the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s fifth fare hike in eight years, which left straphangers digging deeper into their pockets to board the city’s subways and buses beginning this past Sunday, March 22, riders in neighborhoods throughout our coverage area issued some choice words for both the MTA and lawmakers.
According to the poll we published Friday on each of our seven websites (Bensonhurst Bean, Ditmas Park Corner, Fort Greene Focus, KensingtonBK, Park Slope Stoop, Sheepshead Bites, and South Slope News), the overwhelming consensus — 78.2 percent of the 331 people who responded to the poll — was that, in some form or another, the 4 percent fare hikes for subway and bus rides are unfair.
Fifty-five percent slammed the increases, saying the quality of service doesn’t justify them. Numerous individuals elaborated in the comments, saying they’ve had to deal with everything from a pile of poop remaining on a subway car for a week to the notoriously overcrowded and late trains that can plague much of our borough – which leaves them wondering why they have to continue shelling out more to ride the rails.
“I don’t have a problem with fare hikes — IF and only IF the MTA actually could demonstrate that they aren’t just a black hole of waste,” neighbor Jimmy wrote on Ditmas Park Corner – a comment which was read on air when we spoke to Brooklyn Independent Media about the poll results this afternoon. You can watch the entire clip here:
Sunday’s hike, which the MTA said is necessary to keep up with inflation and the rising costs of employee benefits, resulted in the base fare rising from $2.50 to $2.75 for subway and bus rides, 30-day Metrocards increasing from $112 to $116.50, and tolls jumping on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the Marine Parkway — Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, among other increases that you can see detailed here.
More than 50 percent of poll participants on six of our sites said the quality of service doesn’t justify the new price. Bensonhurst Bean saw the largest percentage of its readers lashing out against the quality of service, with 65.6 percent of participants saying as much. Fort Greene, however, saw the smallest percentage — 25 percent — of people criticizing the quality of the subways.
As for what readers agreed with the least? That brings us to the MTA’s argument for why the hikes are necessary – because it has to keep up with inflation and costs. The 331 people who took the poll panned that notion, with just 4.2 percent of participants saying the hike was necessary because of this.
Residents in south and central Brooklyn gave the MTA’s justification a giant thumbs down, with just 1.7 percent of Sheepshead Bites readers, 3.1 percent of Bensonhurst Bean participants, and 4.7 percent of Ditmas Park Corner and Kensington neighbors saying keeping up with inflation and costs was the most valid reason for riders to be emptying their pockets.
“Someone took a dump in the subways and it smelled gross for a whole week before someone decided to clean it up,” a commenter wrote on Bensonhurst Bean. “MTA better pull their sh*t together and manage their money more efficiently. Don’t make us pick up the mess MTA decided to make.”
But, readers in Park Slope and South Slope seemed more willing to give the MTA leeway on this idea, with 7.8 percent of participants saying the hike was fair because the agency needs to keep up with inflation and costs. One Park Slope commenter lamented the potential state of affairs should the subway system ever be forced reduce its hours.
“Here it would be a disaster,” the commenter said. “Would more people drive [drunk]? How would people who work late/odd hours get around? Imagine New Year’s Eve ad the subways shut down at 2am?!”
While few seemed happy with the MTA, some residents said that Albany and City Hall need to dole out more funding for the city’s transit system — though the percentage of people saying that was nowhere near the majority. Across the seven sites, 23.9 percent said city and state legislators need to be the ones to pony up and show the MTA some green. A little more than 15 percent said if the MTA needs money, they should get it from our state or city legislators, and 8.5 percent of all poll participants said the hike is just and city and state legislators are the ones who aren’t putting in their fair share of funding.
This is an argument being made by a variety of people across the city, from the Riders Alliance to Mayor Bill de Blasio. With the MTA facing a $15 billion funding gap to meet its proposed $32 billion five-year capital program, transit advocates and some elected officials said it’s time for Albany to start shelling out more for a public transportation system that’s more than a century old and which recently boasted a record six million riders a day.
John Raskin, the executive director of the Riders Alliance, said in a recent press release that while it’s “easy to blame the MTA for all of these breakdowns and malfunctions,” the “real culprits are Governor Cuomo and members of the state legislature, who have not stepped up to provide the funds that would fix and upgrade our subways.”
“If Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers don’t fund the next MTA capital program, riders are going to see a lot more of these signal malfunctions and train breakdowns in the future,” Raskin said. “Our transit system is better in every way than it was in the 1980s, but if we don’t invest the funds to maintain it, we’ll see the bad old days come back.”
The Straphangers Campaign echoed this sentiment in an email the group sent on Sunday, calling on Cuomo to make public transit funding a priority.
“If this shortfall stands, New Yorkers will likely lose many improvements for better service,” the campaign said of the $15 billion gap. “This could range from ordering fewer new subway cars and buses to cutting back on station renovations and modernizing customer information systems. It could also mean borrowing billions for these improvements, which would create more pressure on the fare.”
Some readers agreed with this as well, and James Izurieta wrote on Fort Greene Focus’ Facebook page that, “Albany needs to step up, period. Year after they year, they starve the MTA” of funding for service expansion and infrastructure replacement.
“So is it fair?” Izurieta asked. “No, if the mission is to keep the city’s engine running and to provide a measure of social justice to those who need it the most. But [the] entity being unfair/unconcerned/indifferent isn’t the MTA but its boss — the governor.”