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PCAC Statement – Oct 7, 2010 – Fare Proposals

Statement of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA
Before a Special Meeting of the MTA Board

October 7, 2010

I am William Henderson, Executive Director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA.  The PCAC is composed of the members of three riders’ councils established by the State legislature in 1981 and addresses regional issues as well as coordinating the work of the councils.

In the nine hearings that you held on the fare proposals, representatives of our Councils outlined the PCAC’s position.  As you have heard and read in the hearing transcripts, the PCAC and its Councils cannot support the proposed fare increases when other parties to last year’s agreement on funding the MTA have failed to provide the support outlined in this agreement.  The riders have already paid for these shortfalls through service cuts.  In addition to wildly overoptimistic estimates of new State revenues and the State’s confiscation of $143 million in dedicated subsidies, which it had previously enacted to support transit, the State now proposes to take from the MTA an additional $16.7 million in support this year.

It’s not hard to see where we are headed.  Under these proposals, the riders across the MTA’s operating agencies will see their share of total operating costs rise from 53.4 percent in 2010 to 59.9 percent by 2013.   We find this shift of the support for public transportation to be unacceptable, particularly in view of the substantial benefits that transit provides throughout our community.

Under these circumstances, we categorically oppose these fare increases and demand that this Board and MTA senior management call on the Legislature to carry out its responsibilities to this region by enacting congestion pricing, tolling the East River Bridges or finding other appropriate sources to meet the needs of this vital community service.  In addition, we call on you to reconsider the following elements in the current fare proposal which have little financial benefit but great impact on riders:

• Charging riders for a new MetroCard when purchasing fares through some but not all channels
• Reducing or eliminating discounts on joint monthly commuter rail and transit passes
• Reducing the period that rail fares are valid or may be presented for refund
• Imposing a charge of $10 on refunds.

We are pleased that you have heeded the overwhelming sentiment against capping time based MetroCards and challenge you to consider these elements of the fare proposal in the same light.

Riders want unlimited MetroCards to be truly unlimited and to be able to receive a refund for unused tickets within a reasonable period of time and without unreasonable fees.  These proposals strike at the heart of customer service; what’s next, a surcharge for schedule information or directions to an on-board restroom?  Riders aren’t happy with increased fares, but these are the kinds of proposals that truly feed rider anger.  We urge you to reject them.

In summary, the PCAC is categorically opposed to the proposed fare increase, and believes that equity must be restored in meeting the challenge of funding the MTA.  We are opposed to the inequitable rider-unfriendly changes to fare policy which continue to breed customer resentment for no appreciable financial or operational benefit.