MTA Debates Whether to Raise or Lower Fares in 2021 to Increase Revenue

MTA Debates Whether to Raise or Lower Fares in 2021 to Increase Revenue

By Yehudit Garmaise

    Would raising or lowering fares increase New Yorkers use of public transportation, the cash-strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) officials are currently wondering.

   While today the MTA discussed $1.4 billion in budget cuts that could result in drastically reduced subway and bus service and a reduction in 9,000 transit workers’ jobs today, the agency also considered several ways to increase its revenue, as it also waits for a potential $12 billion COVID-19 relief package from the federal government.

  Among the MTA’s ideas to raise funds were subway fares increases of anywhere from 2% to 4%, eliminating 7-day and 30-day passes, and adding $1 to the cost of a single-ride ticket, said MTA finance official Mark Young.

   Officials have also proposed that the tolls for New York City’s bridges and tolls bring in more money by varying their prices, depending on the time of day.

   For the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North, officials are also considering reducing the number of fare zones.

 Although fare and toll increases are subject to public hearings and must be approved by the board, since 2009, the MTA has had a policy to raise fares and tolls every two years.

   Transport Workers Union Local 100 President Tony Utano has harshly criticized the MTA’s proposal to slash subways services and jobs, and he instead suggested that the agency generates “real solutions,” such as “ending the stock transfer tax rebate, increasing the gasoline tax, getting rid of high-priced consultants and contractors, replacing cleaning contractors with in-house forces and offering retirement incentives.

    Although labor unions are in favor of generating revenue through fare and toll increases, MTA board member Larry Schwartz, an appointee of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said today that he opposes fare increases.

   “I don’t think fares for the people that depend on the MTA’s transit system should pay more,” Schwartz said. “It’s the casual rider that I believe should be paying more.”

    Suffolk County representative Kevin Law went even a step further and today argued the agency should actually be lowering fares to encourage more people to use public transportation, which has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  “I really seriously believe that if we were to cut fares, at least for ’21, we may generate more revenues by increasing ridership than if we increase fares and continued the depressed ridership,” Law said.


Photo credit: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

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