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Statement on Settlement and Proposed Fare Hike

December 17, 2002

The Straphangers Campaign applauds Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for agreeing to a contract settlement.

Over the last twenty years, improved subways and buses have been one of the city's real success stories. Transit workers and management both deserve great credit for this turnaround. Monday's agreement acknowledges the key role of both, by providing raises for workers and new ways for managers to improve productivity to benefit riders and hold down expenses.

Now, public attention turns to the MTA's proposal to hike fares to as much as $2. We hope for a vigorous debate on fares and service. Among the key questions are:

  • Are the MTA's financial problems so severe that many vulnerable New Yorkers must be socked with a whopping 50-cent-a-ride increase in a recession? Many have asked for an independent review of MTA finances, give widespread concern about how a $24.6 million surplus for city and suburban transit in 2002 turns into a projected $1.1 billion deficit in 2003.
  • What is a fair burden to place on transit riders? We already pay 60% of the costs of operating the system. That's the highest fare box burden in the nation; the national average is 40%. A $2 fare will likely propel that burden to astronomical heights, perhaps 75% or higher.
  • Are alternatives possible, such as reinstating the commuter tax to hold down fares? There would be more support for a renewed commuter tax if the proceeds were used to keep Long Island Rail Road, MetroNorth and city subway and bus fares affordable. More than two-thirds of suburban riders switch to city subways during their weekday commutes.
  • Will there be service cuts even with a $2 fare? News accounts report that transit officials will push to close or reduce hours at more than 180 token/Metrocard booths in the subways.
  • Will the city and state try to cut subsidies to the system? Mayor Bloomberg has already issued ominous warnings that the city will seek to cut back. New York City contributes less than 5% of New York City Transit budget, about $225 million out of $4.8 billion. That's already too little for a system that the city owns.
  • Can we improve unlimited-ride MetroCards, especially making them more accessible to low-income riders? This is key, especially if the MTA more deeply discounts the passes. The Straphangers Campaign has made several recommendations towards this goal, including having the MTA replace lost or stolen 30-day and sell 14-day unlimited-ride passes and flexible passes good for five non-consecutive days. (See www.straphangers.org for more details.)
  • Will transit riders be socked harder than motorists? The MTA's current options call for greater percentage increases for subway and bus riders than motorists. That's wrong. The MTA should give serious consideration to higher peak period tolls to reduce rush hour congestion.

So, congratulations on the settlement - and on to the next debate.

For more information, contact:
Gene Russianoff (212) 349-6460

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