By Racheli Jian, Senior Arts & Cultures Editor
Like most commuters, or really any city resident, I take the subway quite frequently. I scan my Apple Pay on the turnstile and hear the chime that reassures me spending money is actually a positive action. I pay the $2.75 fare charged by the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority). However, I found that something has caused this routine to change.
I was taking the 6 train as I opened Moovit (a public transport app) to find my stop and I saw something that hasn’t happened since 2015. The MTA decided to increase the subway fare. Although this might not seem shocking since it was only $2.75 to $2.90, the effects are vast.
In order to completely understand why MTA increased their fares and what that means, we need to understand the reason we pay fares in the first place, especially since we actually invest in the MTA every year. We invest in the company by paying our taxes. (We are basically shareholders if shareholders couldn’t sell their shares and had absolutely no say in the company). But wait–if we invest in the MTA, why do we have to pay fares?
As most New Yorkers do, I’m going to blame everything on the tourists. In 2021, there was a total of 32.9 million tourists just in New York City alone. These tourists, while they do help the local economy, don’t pay taxes, and therefore aren’t contributing to the costs of the MTA. Besides just covering tourists though, our tax dollars are allocated towards improvements and updates to the transportation system. Another major factor when it comes to fares is the debt gap that the MTA struggles to close. This debt gap is largely due to the fact that when allocating money, the MTA tends to first put money towards major expenses like upgrades and other improvements. They then put money towards the actual transit service, but it is not enough to cover the service itself. This can lead to service cuts since there is not enough money to support the services, which in turn leads to less riders. It is a catch-22 of sorts that feeds into the MTA’s debt.
On top of all this, the pandemic took a toll on the MTA.
As we see, the MTA’s numbers will rarely break even, however due to the pandemic, the ridership has severely decreased. In 2019, the average number of riders annually, just for subways, was 1.6 billion. However, in 2021, the total subway ridership was only 760 million. The pandemic did not only affect users but also the MTA’s decision-making process. During the pandemic, the MTA hesitated to raise fares, in fear of losing the already small pool of customers.
The decrease in riders combined with the postponed raise, explains why the higher fare is needed not just in subways but in almost all transportation services. Effective since August 20 2023, the weekly unlimited pass is $34, increasing by $1. A monthly unlimited pass costs $132, a $5 difference. The MTA toll rate has increased by 6%, and for anyone else outside of the city, the LIRR and Metro-North fares have increased by 4.5%. The MTA hopes to gain money lost and projects that the new fares will increase revenue by 4%.
It is hard to say whether or not this financial plan will be effective, but, next time you board the subway, remember the extra 15 cents is not taken for granted. While it may seem small, it is helping encourage tourism, and MTA users, and improve the overall transportation system. Oh and especially don’t forget–if you’re a tourist, please pay me back.