Barring a miracle, New Yorkers are racing toward a 4% transit fare hike by March. There will be hearings. There will most likely be protests. But the MTA seems determined to stick to its blueprint for smaller-but-steady fare increases every two years.
None of this will ease the burden for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who've seen their pay remain stagnant for years while bus and subway fares climb.
But the process does make some sense. It's better for commuters to suffer a minor pain in the pocketbook every other year than to reel from massive hits at unpredictable intervals. The new plan would raise the monthly fare for unlimited rides from $112 to $116.50. The base fare could stay put at $2.50 but we could see the multiple-ride discount cut. Or the base fare could jump to $2.75 but boost the discount. A seven-day unlimited ride MetroCard would cost $31, a dollar more.
The hit could be worse. The MTA negotiated a labor contract in April that will cost the agency about $525 million over four years. For awhile, riders faced a 7.5% fare hike in 2015 and another in 2017. But the MTA wound up tapping reserve funds to keep the rise at 4% -- roughly the rate of inflation over two years.
While MTA struggles to make its budget, so do the rest of us. The least the agency can do now is to accelerate efforts to make commutes more tolerable for the 5.5 million people who pass through subway turnstiles daily.
Here's a short list of ways to ease the pain now.
Free transfers between close-by subway stations -- like the G station on Broadway and the J and M station on Lorimer Street in Brooklyn.
More subway stations that don't hit the brain-scorching temperatures of, say, the planet Venus every summer.
More stations where it's possible to never see a rat.
More countdown clocks on the lettered subway lines.
The MTA has made the subways infinitely better since the low point in the 1970s. Customers have returned the favor by setting modern ridership records.
Still we don't want to be taken for a ride. We want more for our money.