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 Sheepsheadbites.com 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.
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.