Southern Brooklyn

Proposed Fare And Toll Increases — Residents May Submit Their Comments To The MTA Online

Photo by Erica Sherman

THE COMMUTE: If you did not attend the Brooklyn Transit Fare Hike Hearing held at the Marriott Hotel in Downtown Brooklyn last Monday because of the nor’easter, you have another chance. Another hearing will be held in Manhattan tomorrow evening from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. Registration begins at 4:00 p.m. You also can pre-register on line here.

The Brooklyn hearing should have been rescheduled. Seniors and the disabled should not have been expected to brave the nor’easter, especially without full subway service. The MTA did not care, however. Fewer than 50 people showed up, one of the lowest turnouts ever. “I didn’t hear anyone calling for not having the election,” MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said. “We have to continue. We have to move forward.”

Last week I complimented Chairman Lhota on how well the MTA handled Hurricane Sandy and how well the agency works in times of crises. They were even considerate enough to provide two days of free fares. Well it looks like the crisis is over as far as the MTA is concerned, because it’s back to business as usual. A typically heartless MTA was unconcerned that residents in Sea Gate and Gerritsen Beach, who had lost their homes, had higher priorities than to brave a nor’easter in order to attend a hearing right now.

The chairman’s decision not to postpone the hearing for one week shows that the MTA did not really care if its riders could attend the hearing or not, especially with the N out of service, the D and Q not operating to Coney Island and bus service still erratic. To further illustrate that point, the MTA rescheduled last Thursday’s afternoon video testimony session from Downtown Manhattan to Downtown Brooklyn at the very last moment, not even bothering to update its website informing riders of that change. On Thursday, the same date as the session, the website still stated that the session was “postponed until further notice” — not that the location had changed, but that the date would remain. The website may have not even been updated until the day after the session. This is the same sneaky and deceitful MTA that we have all grown accustomed to hate, and now it’s back. How often was one required to check the website to learn the session had not actually been postponed as promised, but relocated instead?

Because many who intended to attend the Brooklyn hearing did not because of the weather, such as myself, I expect the Manhattan hearing tomorrow to be overly crowded. There is an easier way to comment, by filling out this form on the MTA website, for those who do not want to make the trek into Manhattan.

Below is the testimony I submitted:

My name is Allan Rosen. I write a weekly transit column for and am a retired transit worker. You have to raise the fare to balance your budget. We get that. Albany has left you little choice by cutting your funding. Governor Cuomo promised to make up $300 million you will short in 2013 (almost your entire budget gap for 2013) as a result of partial repeal of the payroll tax but failed to keep that promise. You have made a somewhat convincing case that you have taken the necessary steps to become more efficient. You have given us four scenarios to choose from regarding the proposed fare increase and asked us to choose one. You claim you want to be fair. But are you? You are not and here is why.

You have failed to realize who will be impacted the most? It is those who will be paying twice for this fare increase. That is Long Island Railroad users who also have to take the subway.

It is those who need two buses and a train to complete their trip through no fault of their own but because of shortcomings of the bus routing system.

It is those who previously needed one fare to complete their trip but now require two because you cut their bus route in 2010 without giving them a free transfer, which had been the transit policy for almost 100 years until you decided to change it.

It is the bridge and tunnel users whose fees are increasing 10 to 15 percent every two years. Are their wages going up by that much?

It is someone who cannot walk three quarters of a mile to a Select Bus Service and needs a local bus to access it and then has to pay a second fare for another bus or train. Why should a transfer from a local bus to a Select or Limited Bus prevent you from making a second transfer for free? You can change that policy with this fare increase.

It is the tourists who are not at these hearings who will be impacted the most by having to pay the dollar surcharge for a MetroCard that they may only use a few times. If you are going to charge an extra dollar for a MetroCard, you shouldn’t also charge a 25-cent surcharge for a single ride ticket. A tourist or visitor here for a few days who needs to make only one single round trip would be better off buying two single ride tickets costing $5.50 (under some of your scenarios) rather than pay $6 for a round trip MetroCard when you include the dollar surcharge for the card. How will that reduce lines at vending machines and booths in Midtown? I took a four-day trip to Chicago last August and bought a three-day pass for $14. Why is something like that not available here? Instead we look to soak our tourists rather than encouraging more tourism.

There is much you can do to improve efficiency. Why should one third of the buses come in bunches, which you claim to have no control of, but you do with proper scheduling and dispatching? Why didn’t I see bus bunching in Chicago?

You also need to be more imaginative in devising new fare structures, like unlimited riding within a 90-minute or two-hour period. You need additional fare discount options, like 30 rides good for three months at a savings greater than the fare bonus discount but more expensive than an unlimited pass, as you keep reducing the bonus amounts and also make it more difficult for unlimited passes to pay for themselves by raising the ‘break even’ point.

You need to lower LIRR fares during the off-peak for rides within New York City to reduce reliance on express buses, which are very costly to operate. Have you looked at which express bus routes could be truncated during off-peak hours, saving you operating costs if the LIRR made more stops in the city and the fare was the same as an express bus? Simply raising fares and tolls every two years with no other strategies is not a long-term solution.

Thank you.

The Commute is a weekly feature highlighting news and information about the city’s mass transit system and transportation infrastructure. It is written by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981).

Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work, and their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

Comment policy


  1. if anyone knows any better about the mta, the fact is that they do not read all the comments. i complained several times in the past about B2 not running frequently during evening rush hours. my response was always the same: we will look into this.

  2. it’s pointless to make complains….listen MTA is making
    money now on BUS only lanes by issuing tickets to motorist…..

  3. If they tell you they will look into something and you don’t hear from them again, don’t let them get away with it. Keep writing, then go to one of your elected officials.

  4. Ah yes, the fares. A common complaint, but totally unjustified. The cost of operating the service must always be paid in full. The money comes from either taxes or from the fare box. Actually, it must come from both. The only question is how much from taxes and how much from the fare box. Now I frequently hear that people should pay their fair share. Well, that is exactly why LIRR, MNCR and NJT fares are so much higher. Those people are rich and can afford more, so do not expect those fares to ever come down.

    Now as for the fare you pay on the bus or subway, it is shockingly low. Yes LOW. An automobile costs almost 60c per mile to run (all costs of ownership and amortization included per government tax guidelines). Now I do not live in New York City but rather in North Dakota, so if I wish to drive to the supermarket that is a 55 mile round trip, or
    $35.75 just to go shopping. Sheepshead Bay is about 10 miles from NYC so figure a round trip fare by automobile to be about $12 assuming you use free bridges and park on the street.

    If the fare were raised to $3.00 that would be $6.00 round trip, or about half of what you would pay by car. You have a bargain at any price and yet you complain. Still the service must be paid for one way or another.


  5. You are making an unfair comparison comparing rural and urban areas. Why don’t you compare NYC to other major cities if you want to look at fairness. NYC Subway and bus riders pay a higher percentage of costs to operate the system from the farebox than any other major US city.

  6. And have you actually looked at how express bus service has been slashed before complaining about something that is already being addressed? I really have a problem with you trying to take away our options to get around. Quite frankly I think it’s ridiculous with the amount of money that we spend on the express bus and MetroNorth & the LIRR that we have to have people constantly bitch about how expensive these services are. As far as I’m concerned the cost to run these services is BLOATED. Tell me how in the hell is it that MetroNorth has record ridership and the trains are like sardine cans during the rush and yet still have to raise the fares!!??? It’s ridiculous!! You calling for more express bus cuts shows your ignorance about the needs of those who aren’t near the LIRR or MetroNorth, not to mention the fact that if either of those are down, folks are basically sh*t out of luck, but never mind that though right?? Let’s just cut it. Smh

  7. Sheepshead Bay IS in NYC.

    Do you realize that most people make fairly low amounts of money here in NYC? We are barely able to afford the basics. Traffic is never very good anyway, so driving in this city is not very practical.

  8. Does the MTA get money from fines for parking in bus lanes? As far as I know, that money goes to the City of New York, not to the MTA. The MTA presumably wants those fines in place so that people won’t block bus lanes, not because they actually get money from them. They certainly aren’t the ones who issue the tickets.

  9. That you are unable to earn money is hardly the affair of the Transit Authority. If you need welfare, then apply for that. Yes, the fare does need to be subsidized, but not everybody needs a subsidy. Let the people who can afford to pay more do so, and then those who need assistance should receive that.

  10. Labor, and electricity both cost more in New York City. I would expect the fare to be higher in NYC than say in Philadelphia or Peking. I was comparing the cost of a subway ride in NYC to a car ride in NYC. Even at a $3.00 token, the subway is the cheapest way to get around.

    There are many factors that go into the fare, and into the tax that supports what the fare does not. That there should be breaks for students, seniors and the needy is without a doubt, but these need to come from some other tax source than the MTA itself.

    Yes, of course there is waste in the MTA, and yes they can do things less expensively. Submit your observations and suggestions to the MTA Inspector General. His website is easy to use and you can make your voice heard much better there than you can at 2 Broadway.

  11. My main complaint about both the B2 and the B100 is the total disregard for the schedule posted on the signs. If the gap between non rush hour buses is 20 minutes then the drivers and the dispatchers should make sure the schedule is adhered to. The B2 is an easy run from kings highway to kings plaza so traffic can not be used as an excuse.

  12. Obviously, you missed my point. The reason that people here in NYC are against fare hikes is that it’s difficult to afford other commodities as it is. On top of that, many people either have difficulty with parking (easily gets expensive in an area where you have to pay to park; sometimes, there may be no available spaces anyway) or just don’t have a vehicle.

    By the way, not everyone can apply for welfare. The reasons can range from being too young to making too much money.

  13. When should the Brooklyn hearing have been postponed to? This week, Monday is a holiday, Tuesday through Thursday each have two hearings already, and Friday runs into the weekend. Next week is Thanksgiving week. If you missed last week’s hearing, go to whichever of this week’s six hearings is most convenient (Manhattan isn’t the only option) or, as you suggest, submit your testimony online.

    If you don’t want the fares or tolls to increase as much as proposed, then persuade your elected officials to fund the MTA adequately. Until then, the MTA has a revenue target that needs to be met, and any new proposal that doesn’t meet that target is highly unlikely to be adopted.

  14. Please don’t try to change what I stated. I was not calling for express bus cuts across the board. I realize they are essential in certain areas and during certain times. I was talking specifically about off-peak service when there are sometimes only two people per bus on certain routes. And don’t forget that even during the peak, express buses usually run empty in the off-peak direction, so they are pretty inefficient as compared to rail. If those few riders could use LIRR or Metro-North instead if it were available and not cost prohibitive, I don’t see a problem with some cuts to those bus services.

  15. Bus frequencies are determined primarily by loads. Loads are checked every two years and schedules are adjusted accordingly. Unless there’s reason to believe that ridership has significantly changed since the last check, in which case it might be appropriate for the MTA to arrange for some extra checks, there isn’t much to be done.

    If they look into it and nothing changes, that simply means that service is already running at the appropriate frequency.

    In my experience, B2 ridership is pretty light in the evenings. As @84f9d49ec7199b157d831c0da18506aa:disqus points out, reliability is a much bigger problem – and a harder problem to solve – than scheduled frequency.

  16. Yes. You hit it on the head. Everything is expensive. And how is transit different? It is still a great bargain compared to other modes of transport in the city. When I lived in the city I never owned a car, I purchased a bag of subway tokens first thing each payday, right after paying the rent.

    It costs a lot of money to run the transit system, labor costs are high and hidden in the labor costs are health care and retirement, and many of those expenses have been differed (as they should not have been) and will now come due. The costs of running the system must be paid on a day by day basis (capital improvements alone can be funded by debts such as bonds).

    So it boils down to the fare box or the tax base. Anything you do not pay at the fare box will have to be paid to the taxman. A $2.50 fare is most reasonable, a $3.00 fare is by no means unreasonable. Take into account that that is the base fare and not the discounted rare that you receive with weekly or monthly tickets. I would also suggest “Restricted Tickets” sold at a much lower price good only for one round trip daily between two named in advance stations, and all stations on weekends and after 1800. There could be off-peak fares, although to be honest I do not know what off-peak would look like in NYC. ☺

    School tickets sold at schools and subsidized by the Board of Education, senior and special needs tickets sold at senior service agencies. What the heck, employers could even offer special fare tickets in cooperation with the MTA. Many things are possible if you look for them. Nothing is possible if all you want to do is to complain. You do not set a fare by the lowest possible user, but rather on what your average user can pay, others get their help from other agencies.

  17. Yes, it should have been postponed until sometime this week. Tuesday through Thursday would have been better than holding it in the middle of a nor’easter with subway lines out of service of. Friday would have been okay too. There is no excuse how they handled the afternoon video session. You don’t advertise that it has been postponed, then decide to hold it anyway at the last moment.

  18. I like how some people will go defend new rules and laws so that this damn city pockets more money from everyday people…..You people are so naive…..they plan to increase again price of parking meters….

  19. You seriously think that having three simultaneous hearings would have been wise?

    Friday night is the weekend. Many people (both members of the public and most likely members of the board) have weekend plans. Especially with Thanksgiving coming up, some will be out of town. And why would you disenfranchise the large Orthodox Jewish community of Brooklyn by holding a hearing on the one night of the week that they cannot attend?

    Wednesday’s storm wasn’t a hurricane – it was a modest snowstorm. Life goes on through modest snowstorms in New York. I went to work as did all of my colleagues. And by Wednesday evening, the entire Brooklyn subway network was up and running except for the inner Canarsie (which has easier access to Manhattan in any case) and Sea Beach lines. Those who missed last Wednesday’s hearing has six more this week to choose from, three of which are easily reachable from Brooklyn by subway.

    I didn’t comment on the video session because I don’t know if your account was accurate. If it was, don’t forget that the agency has been busy restoring service while its 2 Broadway headquarters has been closed. It’s possible that somebody made a mistake. This is the first time the MTA has offered the video session option, which is certainly not required by law, and I guess you’d prefer that it be the last. (The Public Authorities Law requires only one public hearing, or three if “the increase sought is or constitutes a portion of general statewide increase,” announced ten days in advance.)

  20. Personally, I think that, when space is limited, a bus carrying 40 or 50 people should have priority for that space over a car carrying 1 or 2 (or even 4 or 5) people.

    I also think that the city has every right to charge people to store their private property on public land, and in particular the city should be charging enough for parking so that people who need parking can find it. With parking rates set too low, nobody benefits – drivers have to waste time hunting for parking, other drivers and bus riders behind them are delayed by parking-searchers and illegal double parkers, and businesses suffer from lack of turnover.

    We have a system of laws, including penalties for those who choose to break the law. Deal with it.

  21. Just look at the facts. Only 40 attended and about 25 spoke. A hearing any other time would have yielded more participants.
    As far as the video session, I was thinking of attending so I kept monitoring the MTA site and on Thursday morning, the site still stated it was postponed until further notice. On Friday, the location was listed as Livingston Street indicating it had been held. Would like to know if anyone even showed up.

  22. You didn’t answer any of my questions. The hearing could not realistically have been rescheduled for this week, nor was there any pressing need to reschedule it. Those who couldn’t make it due to the weather or for any other reason have six more chances this week.

  23. Ok whatever rocks your boat….i hope when city hits your
    personal pocket….you will just willingly pay whatever amount it is….unless
    if you are a freeloader….

  24. No damn way you live in NY or NJ or anywhere effected by Sandy. Either that or you are one of the CEOs for the MTA or obtain a high paying position in the mayors office. Only that can explain your comments.

  25. There was a reason why a separate hearing was scheduled for Brooklyn. I believe it is the most populous borough.. It is not fair to expect Brooklynites to jam into the other hearing sites and wait hours to speak and travel long distances to get there. If they could postpone the Farmingdale hearing, they also could have postponed the Brooklyn hearing even if it were rescheduled for next week.

    But why argue with me? Others who did show up at the hearing felt the same as I do, that the hearing should have been postponed.

  26. The system is still the same as it was in 1940 with very few expansions added. Overall the subway system is a shell of what it was supposed to become. Go outside of the city (manhattan) and you see it clearly. No improvements are made, service sucks in general. Would you be happy paying more for a product that never improves and breaks down often. The MTA also collects taxes from landlines, heating, electric and drivers.

  27. When I’ve been fined for breaking the law, yes, I’ve willingly paid the fine. I’m not happy about it, but it’s hard to argue otherwise.

  28. The Farmingdale hearing was most likely postponed because the venue didn’t have power, and it’s kind of hard to hold an evening event with no lighting.

    Next week is Thanksgiving. Many people, both speakers and board members, travel for Thanksgiving. Rescheduling an event invariably disenfranchises anybody with a busy schedule who set aside one evening to attend. Rescheduling should be a last resort, when sticking to the original schedule is impossible. As you say, people who don’t want to travel to a hearing can submit their testimony online or by mail.

    The Manhattan hearing location is more accessible to much of North Brooklyn than the Brooklyn hearing location, and many if not most Brooklyn residents who use MTA facilities work in other boroughs. The Brooklyn hearing was not necessarily the most convenient hearing for most Brooklyn residents.

  29. “The Brooklyn hearing was not necessarily the most convenient hearing for most Brooklyn residents.”

    I heartily disagree with that statement. It is obvious from that statement that Brooklyn to you is Williamsburg, Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, etc. Southern Brooklyn does not count to you. So what if the N train was out and multiple buses and trains on a stormy night was required for some Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge riders to attend. Making that trip with a wheelchair or for the elderly is difficult enough without those barriers.

  30. Brooklyn to me is a large, diverse borough of many neighborhoods. Much of northern Brooklyn – the area served by the L, the M, and much of the J – have significantly easier and quicker access to Baruch College than to the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott. (Your short list of neighborhoods is particularly amusing in that Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill are in walking distance of the Marriott; for them, traveling to Manhattan really is significantly less convenient. From most of Southern Brooklyn, the trip to Manhattan takes 15 minutes longer and requires no extra transfers.) And you keep ignoring my point that, at 5 pm on a weekday, many Brooklyn residents aren’t in Brooklyn at all!

    Yes, a mild snowstorm makes it difficult for some people to get around, but life doesn’t stop for a minor weather event. Rescheduling the hearing, especially for the week of Thanksgiving, would have made it difficult or impossible for far more people to attend. (If I’ve already spent $500 on nonrefundable airfare the week of Thanksgiving, I’m not going to cancel my travel plans to attend a public hearing.) Those who couldn’t make it last week are welcome to spend the extra 15 minutes to reach tonight’s Manhattan hearing or to submit their testimony online or by mail.

    Frankly, I think attendance was low because, with Sandy on everyone’s mind, most people forgot about the hearing.

  31. It was the Nor’Easter and erratic bus and subway service as well as Sandy why attendance was so low.

    Yes at 5PM on a weekday, some Brooklyn residents may not be in Brooklyn. But most are not in Manhattan either. Of the working population, I believe 50% or less work in Manhattan. Most work in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island, Long Island and New Jersey. Manhattan isn’t the employment center it was in 2000.

    Asking them to return home from those places late at night after having to wait hours to speak because of no Brooklyn hearing when they have to go to work the next day is not reasonable, especially when so many lost their cars and woud have to rely on mass transit to reach those remote sites.

  32. Nothing I said was specific to Manhattan. If a particular Brooklyn resident works in the Bronx, then perhaps she will find the Bronx hearing most convenient. The point is that the Brooklyn hearing is not necessarily the most convenient hearing for every single Brooklyn resident.

    The Manhattan, Bronx, and Queens hearings are all well served by the subway.

    The reason people have to wait so long to speak is that politicians are allowed to cut the line and to ignore the time limits. (Then they leave before their own constituents have spoken.) If they were held to the same rules as everybody else, the general public would be out much earlier.

  33. I’m not changing anything at all. You keep complaining about the LIRR or MetroNorth and not specifying which routes you’re talking about as if the LIRR and MetroNorth cover all areas that are served by express buses.
    If you don’t want me complaining about your comments, then be more specific. Tell me what express buses run in Queens that run near the LIRR and have off peak service???

  34. “The system is still the same as it was in 1940 with very few expansions added.”

    And this means that we are running with ancient infrastructure, that we have had to put billions of dollars into the infrastructure (even though you cannot see them) We cannot simply build a new line, we have old lines and we must maintain them. There are much higher operating expenses here than say in Washington: More employees per square inch, and earning higher salaries, and holding onto expensive benefits. AND IT IS STILL THE CHEAPEST AND MOST EFFICIENT MODE OF TRANSPORT IN THE CITY.

    YOU say the service sucks. You do not live in Bismarck were all buses run on a 60 MINUTE headway. But we get Federal Funds and you do not. Did you ever wonder why? Because here some commissioner says “Hey We can do this” and they fill out the forms and send them in. In New York you have one million people arguing over what to do, and then when you have decided what to do it no longer complies with the terms of the grants, and have missed the deadline anyway.

    Of course the MTA collects taxes and money wherever it can, it has to pay its way somehow. I’d much rather pay the fare than have to drive everywhere. And believe me, out here you do drive everywhere with one eye on the road, one eye on the road condition report, and one eye on the weather report. But, we can do it all at 75 mph. 🙂

  35. So how were the two hearings tonight? Any interesting comments? Long lines? I couldn’t make it tonight, but I’m going to try to catch Thursday’s hearing in Queens.

  36. I went to the Manhattan one. I would estimate 120’or more attended. Difficult to tell since everyone was not there at once. I waited only one hour ten minutes to testify after pre registering. I only stayed for 15 minutes after I testified. There was heartbreaking testimony by one woman whose last name was Griffiths is a widow of a transit worker who complained how the MTA was treating her and how she was struggling just to survive. She claimed she had to collect cans to afford the transit fare to come to the hearing.

  37. I’m glad the Manhattan hearing was not as crowded as you had expected.

    I’m sorry to hear that the widow of a transit worker is having trouble. Is the MTA pension system not providing her with what she’s owed?

  38. Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying too close attention to what her actual gripe was. All I heard was that there were mistakes on her health benefits card and she claimed they left her to die and they should remember her name.

    Also, at least ten people prefaced their remarks thanking the MTA for working so hard to return service after the storm. I also heard that only 30 attended the Bronx hearing which was attended by Lhota and a few others. Only one pol showed up.

  39. I hope her problems get resolved soon.

    I went to the Queens hearing today. I got there around 5:20 (20 minutes after it started) and by 5:45 there were no more registered speakers. Since registration was open until 8, there was a prolonged break to wait for more speakers to arrive. I left during the break.

    So it appears that the low turnout in Brooklyn had nothing to do with the weather – the turnout in Queens was similar if not lower, and the weather is fine tonight.

  40. I think the low Brooklyn turnout did have something to do with the weather because several speakers at the Manhattan meeting came from Brooklyn. But you are correct that the turnout at all the hearings was far less than I expected.

    The previous time I attended a fare hike hearing was around 2001 when it was held in Long Island City. That hearing was jammed with about 500 people, but it was the only hearing for the entire city. I am also amazed at the lack of attendance by elected officials this time around.

  41. All of the hearings are open to residents of all boroughs (and to non-city residents). Many Brooklyn residents work in Manhattan, so I expect that more than one speaker at the Manhattan hearing hailed from Brooklyn. (I’ll bet there were also speakers from Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island, and the suburbs.)

    I agree that the low turnout by elected officials was a surprise. Perhaps they realize that they look like hypocrites when they publicly assail the MTA for raising fares while inadequately supporting transit themselves.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here