The 7-day and 30-day MetroCards for the city’s subway and bus system will remain uncapped, as transit officials acknowledged the public had little taste for an earlier proposal to restrict the number of rides that could be taken on such passes. Still, the pricing structure places the biggest burden on the subway system’s most frequent riders, the one-third of commuters who buy 30-day passes.
The fare increases come months after the authority, reeling from an enormous budget gap, enacted severe service cuts that discontinued bus and subway lines throughout the city. But board members said it would be irresponsible not to raise fares, and they pointed the blame squarely at the State Legislature, which this year redirected subsidies meant for the transit agency.
“Being on this board really made me stop believing in fairy tales,” said Doreen M. Frasca, an appointee of Gov. David A. Paterson. “I don’t think for a minute Albany is going to do anything for us; in fact, I think they’re going to take more.” She added: “I hate taking this vote. But at this point in time, it’s our only option.”
Unlike the raucous hearings that accompanied this summer’s service cuts, the board’s hourlong debate on Thursday was marked by few outbursts or protests. The prevailing mood was one of resignation, not outrage. “We are not in a position to be able to avoid this increase,” Jay H. Walder, the authority’s chairman, said in a solemn tone as the meeting began.
The new fare structure, approved by a 12-2 vote, will raise the price of tickets on Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road by 7 percent to 14 percent, depending on distance. The unlimited weekly MetroCard will cost $29, up from $27, and riders who buy a new MetroCard rather than adding money to one they already have will pay a $1 surcharge.
Since its introduction in 1998, the monthly MetroCard’s price has risen 65 percent, far outpacing inflation. The 30-day pass originally cost $63 a month. Subway and bus riders will have to take 50 trips a month to justify the new $104 cost, officials said, up from 46 trips now.
Overall, the fare increases will generate 7.5 percent more revenue for the troubled authority, the percentage it agreed to in a deal with the State Legislature last year.
But riders’ advocates expressed dismay on Thursday that the authority was still raising fares after cutting service. “This fare plan hits our best customers with the heftiest fare hike,” said Andrew Albert, chairman of the New York City Transit Riders Council. Officials defended the big increase for monthly cards, arguing that users of the 30-day pass tend to be more affluent than other riders.
A proposed toll increase on the authority’s tunnels and bridges will be considered by the board on Oct. 27. One proposal would raise cash tolls by 30 percent or more, while E-ZPass users would not pay any increase.
The authority has a balanced budget for 2010, but there was concern that the agency could face another crisis soon. “The business plan of the M.T.A. today is a ticking time bomb,” said Andrew M. Saul, the board’s vice chairman. He said the fare increases approved on Thursday are “just the beginning.”