2011 Fare Hike To Have MetroCard Tax?

This might be the case according to a report by the New York Post this morning which dropped this bombshell among others in reporting on the 2011 fare hike. At the end of the last month, MTA CEO & Board Chairman Jay Walder announced that there would be no fare hikes this year even with the financial crisis continuing to worsen. However as I noted, this was not a big deal considering 2011 is right around the corner.

Let’s delve into the report by Tom Namako of the New York Post:

The MetroCard tax may be coming to a subway station near you.

Millions of straphangers would be hit with a $1 surcharge when they get a new MetroCard from a vending machine instead of refilling an old one under one of the MTA’s leading fare-hike and revenue-raising plans, The Post has learned.

“It would provide an incentive to hold on to the card,” a source said, helping rein in manufacturing, distribution and disposal costs as well as providing a new revenue stream for the cash-starved agency.

“When I see what it costs to produce MetroCards, it’s not efficient, and it makes me sick when I see them strewn across the floor at stations,” another source said. “I wouldn’t say I’d be distressed” over a new-card surcharge.

Another major change under consideration is putting a cap on the number of trips using weekly and monthly “unlimited ride” cards. Details of that plan were not immediately available.

The “unlimited ride” restrictions would curb straphangers’ ability to share MetroCards.

Officials are also considering the elimination of off-peak fares on the Metro-North and LIRR commuter rail lines — which would provide another cash injection, sources said.

Leading MTA revenue-raising and fare-hike plans under consideration for 2011:

* Riders would pay a $1 surcharge every time they get a new MetroCard from a vending machine instead of refilling an old one.

* $27 weekly MetroCards would rise by about 4%.

* $89 monthly cards would increase to just under $100.

* Number of rides on weekly and monthly cards would be capped.

* Single-ride fare would remain at $2.25.

* Overall fare hike would be 7.5%.

Click here for the complete report.

It is pretty easy to figure out which aspects of the report will garner the biggest attention. Those aspects would be the “MetroCard Tax” & the cap on unlimited cards. As fat as the “tax”goes, I don’t necessarily think it is a bad thing. The majority of the subway system is an eyesore & let’s face it, this is due to the riders themselves.

Trash happens to be the biggest issue caused by riders in station & one of the most popular items that gets trashed are MetroCards. Maybe this surcharge is what is needed to encourage riders to refill their cards versus tossing them on the ground which many riders are guilty of doing. Plus if they ever get around to a SmartCard type system, MetroCards will become obsolete as should the tax.

As far as the cap goes, I want to find out specific details before completely opining on it. I can say at first glance that I am against any idea of a cap as advertising something as unlimited means it should be unlimited.

My biggest two concerns outside of the capping of MetroCards is the obsession with the MTA wanting to keep the base fare at its current levels & the potential elimination of off-peak pricing on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) & Metro-North Railroad. (MNRR). Let me first tackle the base fare.

It is a fact that the majority of riders do not pay the base fare when using the bus or subway. So with this being the case, why does the MTA continue to obsess with not raising the base fare which helps the fewest amount of riders? Why should the majority of riders have to suffer through increases while the privileged few who pay base fare get a pass?

Ideas like these are why so many bash the agency for not doing right by its customers. Normally I would defend the agency as most criticisms are based out of a lack of knowledge of the real happenings with the agency from all sides but in this case I can’t.

The other issue is the potential elimination of the off-peak fares on the two commuter railroads. This would personally be a huge deal to me as I currently live on the island & use the LIRR as much as I do the subway at times. Over the last decade, off-peak ridership has increased greatly although service to match has not.

I happen to be a frequent off-peak rider & already feel I pay too much for the service provided. Many riders as a whole feel the same way I do & bemoan the costs on a somewhat regular basis. If they truly eliminate the off-peak pricing model, I fully expect this to drive even more people to the roads.

As it is, I still continue to travel via car because it is more cost effective in most cases. By eliminating the off-peak pricing model, the trips I frequently make on the LIRR will automatically diminish if not evaporate completely. I am extremely confident this would be the case for many others.

The next few weeks should prove interesting as this information gets flushed out & actual concrete data is provided in terms of potential new pricing structures. I will definitely stay on top of this story which is sure to dominate the headlines for the remainder of the year.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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