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NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate release:
Monday, November 18, 2002                       
For info, contact:
Gene Russianoff at (212) 349-6460

Group Issues First-Ever In-Depth Report on Fare Discounts; Urges Adoption of New Discounts and Says Will Not Cost MTA

Riders Want 5-Day "Flexible" Unlimited-Ride Passes, Replacements for Missing MetroCards and 14-Day Passes, Survey Finds

Also Calls for Lowering Fare to $1.40 By Ending 10% MetroCard Bonus

The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign today released the first-ever in-depth report on New York City subway and bus fare discounts and called on transit officials to adopt several new discounts. These included a 5-day "flexible" MetroCard good for non-consecutive days of unlimited rides, replacement of lost or stolen MetroCards, a 14-day unlimited-ride MetroCard and lowering the base fare from $1.50 to $1.40 by ending the 10% bonus when you buy $15 on a pay-per-ride MetroCards.

The group said the new discounts could be implemented without costing the transit system additional revenue and would make subways and buses more convenient to use, increase ridership and make MetroCard discounts more accessible to lower-income riders. (See attached summary.)

The 63-page report was based on a comprehensive telephone survey of 800 New Yorkers conducted in September 2002 and showed riders strongly interested in MetroCard improvements.

Currently, city riders can buy MetroCards good for one, seven or thirty consecutive days of unlimited rides, as well as get a 10% bonus for buying $15 or more on a pay-per-ride MetroCard. These discounts were introduced beginning five years ago in July 1997, with the start of free MetroCard transfers between buses and subways.

Based on the survey findings, the Straphangers Campaign recommended:

  • 5-day unlimited-ride "flexible" passes priced at $16. Sixty-three percent of riders in the survey said it would be a "major improvement" if they could buy a MetroCard good for unlimited rides on non-consecutive days. The current 7-day card expires within seven consecutive days of first use. "Flexible" passes were most popular with those now using pay-per-ride MetroCards;
  • Replacements for lost or stolen 30-day MetroCards. Sixty-three percent of survey respondents said that it would be a major improvement for them if they were "able to replace a lost or stolen unlimited-ride MetroCard." Currently, New York City Transit treats most MetroCards as cash, with riders bearing the risk of loss or theft.

The transit agency now replaces lost or stolen MetroCards purchased by riders in the senior citizen or disability half-fare programs. The prospect of replacement cards was most popular among those respondents now buying 30-day unlimited-ride MetroCards, which cost $63; and

  • 14-day unlimited-ride MetroCard for $31.50. Nearly one-half (45%) of lower-income riders surveyed who use a 7-day pass said that the cost of a 30-day card is a "very important" reason for not buying a 30-day pass. A bi-weekly pass priced at $31.50—one-half the cost of the monthly pass—makes the savings of the current 30-day pass more accessible to lower-income riders; and
  • lowering the current base fare from $1.50 to $1.40 by eliminating the 10% bonus on MetroCard purchases of $15 or more. Survey results showed that the 10% bonus is inequitable: While 13% of low-income riders (household incomes under $25,000) purchase bonus MetroCards, 30% of riders with household incomes between $50,000 and $75,000 and 39% of riders with incomes over $75,000 purchase bonus MetroCards.

"Subway and bus riders want new and improved fare discounts," said Gene Russianoff, senior attorney for the Straphangers Campaign. "If the MTA offers them, more riders will come and mobility for hundreds of thousands of riders will greatly increase."

The report estimated that the new discounts would be revenue neutral for the transit system through a detailed analysis of respondent’s current travel and purchasing patterns and their likely commuting with the recommended new discounts.

Based on the survey findings, the campaign also called on state, city and transit officials to increase participation in "TransitChek," a program that lowers fares by saving workers $400 or more a year in transit tax breaks on their purchase of MetroCards. Only 23% of employed survey respondents say their employer offers TransitChek.

The survey was conducted for the Straphangers Campaign and Transportation Alternatives by Bruce Schaller , a widely-respected analyst who has worked for the New York City Transit Authority and the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

"New fare discounts will attract more New Yorkers out of their cars and onto subways and buses," said John Keahny, executive director of Transportation Alternatives.

An advance copy of the report was provided last week to officials at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and MTA New York City Transit, which runs the city subway and bus system. (A copy of the report can be found at www.straphangers.org/discount.pdf)

The survey was funded through a grant from the J.M. Kaplan Fund.

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