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NYCTRC Testimony – Sept 21, 2010 – Proposed Fare Increase

Testimony of the New York City Transit Riders Council to the
Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority On Proposed Fare Increases
The Brooklyn Museum,
Brooklyn, NY

September 21, 2010

My name is Stuart Goldstein and I am a member of the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC).  The Council was created in 1981 to represent the users of the New York City Transit system and consists of fifteen volunteer members appointed by the Governor upon the recommendation of the Mayor, the Public Advocate and the five Borough Presidents.

As representatives of New York City Transit riders we have always taken a balanced approach to fare increase proposals.  We have long held that protecting transit service is of paramount importance and that riders should be willing to do their part to meet the financial needs of the system on which they depend.  At this time, we are convinced that the need is real; the MTA is in a precarious financial position and must increase revenue if it is to continue to provide essential services.  We cannot, however, support the current fare proposals as other MTA funding partners have not fulfilled their responsibilities to the region’s mass transit system. We believe that the riders cannot be called upon to bridge this gap by themselves.

The MTA’s finances are in large part shaped by an agreement reached in May 2009 between the State and MTA that included increased State financial assistance through new taxes and fees on motorists, taxi users, and business and increased rider support through a program of regular fare adjustments.  The riders are being held to their substantial responsibilities under this bargain, but now they stand alone.  New state revenues have failed to meet projections and $143 million in revenues that have been promised for the operation of MTA services have been used to reduce deficits in the State’s general fund.

Riders are already heavily burdened.  NYC Transit riders already pay a greater percentage of the cost of providing service than in any major transit system in the nation, and through the first five months of this year, this figure has risen to 61.1 percent.  Figures recently released by the MTA indicate that the percentage of operating costs paid by the riders will continue to rise under the current financial plan.   Riders have already paid dearly for emerging budget gaps through reduction in the quantity and quality of service.  The M train no longer serves south Brooklyn, and between express bus cuts and reductions to local bus lines such as the B4, B8, B12, and B64 and the elimination of the B23, B39, and B51, riders in Brooklyn have seen their transit options severely limited.

Aside from these larger issues, we are troubled by several elements of the fare proposals being considered.  The most striking of these is the proposal to place caps on the number of rides available for 7 and 30 day MetroCards.  The NYCTRC firmly believes that time based MetroCards should not be capped.  Riders buy these farecards because they need to be able to use the transit system without a second thought.  Riders rely on this freedom to travel where and when they wish, and it should not be taken away.

We also are troubled by the proposed $1 charge to receive a new MetroCard at a MetroCard Vending Machine or station booth and the $.25 surcharge on single ride tickets.  While the Council agrees that reducing litter and avoiding the cost of issuing new MetroCards are worthy objectives, we believe that these charges far exceed costs and could have unanticipated consequences, such as increased number of riders seeking to exchange old cards for new after a misswipe in a turnstile or misread in a bus farebox.  The MTA’s energies would be more productively spent to further progress toward a smart card based fare system, which would make issues of litter and new cards largely moot.

The New York City Transit Riders Council cannot accept these proposals and calls upon this Board to reject this program of fare increases and for the MTA to redouble its efforts to arrive at a workable and equitable arrangement for adequately funding the services on which this region depends. We demand that the members of the MTA Board and MTA senior management work vigorously both internally to improve efficiency and eliminate duplication of positions and with our State and Federal elected officials to find alternative means of filling the gap between costs and revenues.  To increasingly shift this burden to riders is unacceptable.