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PCAC Statement – December 17, 2007 – MTA Budget and Fare Proposals

Statement of PCAC Executive Director William Henderson on the
2008 MTA Budget and Fare Proposals
MTA Board New York City Transit Committee
December 17, 2007

Good morning. I’m Bill Henderson, the Executive Director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA and I want make several comments about the fare proposal and budget proposed for adoption this month. First, I am very concerned with the new proposal to defer implementation of Service Enhancement Fund projects until a review of revenues at the end of March 2008. We view the Service Enhancement Fund as an essential part of the fare proposal, a way of giving something back to the riders. The recommended service enhancements program for NYC Transit includes needed improvements to address new ridership patterns and several worthy additions to service to address longstanding issues, such as the restoration of 24 hour service to the 145th and 148th Street and development of joint fare media for the region’s transit agencies.

We understand that we are entering uncertain times and that the practical effect of this deferral may be small, as the recommended service enhancements would not be implemented before March of 2008 in any case. Revenue that is substantially below projections may well force a reassessment of more than the Service Enhancement Fund. Changes to the Service Enhancement Fund should be considered as part of this reassessment, if necessary. Throughout the fare hearings and the Public engagement workshop, we heard a number of speakers state that they would be more favorably disposed to a fare increase if it were accompanied by improvements in service. To defer Service Enhancement Fund projects before a financial need is established is to break faith with these speakers and a substantial proportion of riders.

I also question the reasoning behind the proposed price increase of the 1 day Fun Pass from $7 to $7.50. This fare category currently has a market share of about 1 percent of rides. This represents a considerable decline in popularity in this fare category following price increases that made it, in the opinion of many riders, a poor value. Despite this, the current fare proposal includes a price increase in excess of 7 percent for the Fun Pass. If the MTA aims to maintain the Fun Pass as a viable and attractive option for riders, it is difficult to see how increasing its price by a greater percentage than any other class of MetroCard will help to achieve that aim.

On the subject of time based MetroCards, the PCAC is pleased to see the 14 day MetroCard included in this fare proposal, providing a reduced daily cost option for the purchase of time based MetroCards. The proposed per day cost of 7 and 14 day MetroCards remains considerably higher than that for the 30 day MetroCard. We continue to question whether this differential is justified by cost or revenue considerations.

We are also troubled by the decision to propose an increase in the CityTicket fare from $3 to $3.25. While CityTicket is a commuter rail fare, it is essentially a subsitiute for less convenient transit service at a cost slightly higher than the transit fare. Increasing CityTicket fares while the base fare remains at $2 weakens the link between the two fares and undermines the rationale for a special CityTicket fare.

Finally, we are pleased that a combination of revenue exceeding projections and expenditures below budget yielded some $222 million that has been programmed to shabilize the base fare. As most riders recognize, however, the base fare is paid for only about 14 percent of trips. While the base fare may have substantial symbolic value, the PCAC calls upon the MTA Board to consider the proposed 2008 budget and fare proposal in light of the full range of their impacts on riders.