Editorial: MTA fare hikes are bitter medicine
Millions of riders swiped pricier MetroCards through subway turnstiles and into bus fare boxes without a hint of confusion yesterday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said. If card machines malfunctioned, or if reset turnstiles rebelled on the first commuting day after the latest fare increase, their numbers weren't great. That shouldn't be surprising.
New Yorkers have had plenty of practice with fare hikes lately. The round of hikes that took effect on Sunday is the fourth in five years -- a price escalation that sharply outpaces the rate of inflation.
And what are straphangers getting for their money?
Nothing to brag about.
Nearly all new money from the latest round of increases will be needed just to pay for existing projects and MTA debt, says state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
Which means the MTA is rolling down a treacherous stretch of track now. Money is tight, revenue is uncertain, contract talks are dragging, and the top job is up for grabs.
It's been two months since Joseph Lhota quit as executive director of North America's largest transportation system to run for mayor. Time's up. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo needs to find a successor now.
The new chief will have to hammer out a deal with the Transit Workers Union, figure out how to finance ongoing projects like the much-needed Second Avenue subway, and keep the trains and buses running smoothly without reaching into riders' pockets yet again.
Because the MTA's riders are totally tapped out.
Even before the latest fare increase, city subway riders were paying 72 percent of the system's operating costs -- the highest rate in the nation. Commuters on New Jersey's PATH trains pay just 35 percent. Riders on Chicago's L system pay 53 percent.
Thomas Prendergast has done well as the MTA interim executive director. But his day job is running the subway and bus system. No one should do both jobs for long.
The MTA needs a long-term financial stragegy and riders need relief from incessant, wage-eating fare increases.