NYC riders rail over proposed fare hikes

Commuters move through the turnstiles in Penn Station as a glitch hits monthly MetroCard users, Monday, Dec. 1, 2014.
Commuters move through the turnstiles in Penn Station as a glitch hits monthly MetroCard users, Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

The MTA brass considering fare hikes for next year got an earful from a few dozen subway and bus riders who showed up at two hearings Monday to complain about paying more for stagnating service.

A 13-person panel consisting of MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast, agency officials and board members heard from 30 riders in Baruch College, while another panel of officials heard from 15 straphangers at Hostos Community College in the Bronx.

The MTA board will vote on the fare hike proposals this month.

Sherrod Staton, a 24-year-old college student and retail worker from Ozone Park who takes the A train, bluntly called the options for the fare hike “garbage” and unfair to riders who have seen wages stay stubbornly flat.

“It’s really unfair to common New Yorkers to have to constantly, constantly pay this increased fare,” Staton said. “I don’t see anything being done with the quality of the trains.”

The hikes being considered would increase the fare 25 cents to $2.75, with a better cash bonus, or keep the fare flat at $2.50 and nix the bonus. Weekly unlimited MetroCards would go to $31 from $30 and 30-day cards would go up to $116.50 from $112.

Jo-Ann Polise, an east sider and a nonprofit office manager, said she decided to testify after limited buses drove past her stop earlier in the day.

“I’m not happy. Everybody I know is trying to do more with less,” she said after her testimony.

There were a few colorful suggestions for raising money without fare hikes. Two people wanted to see tourists pay more, like a two-tiered system for visitors or a fare hike during the months in the peak tourism season. Nancy Rankin, of anti-poverty group Community Service Society, wants low-income New Yorkers to get a break on fares to boost ridership, which is already at a post-war record.

A suggestion from community organizer Ryan Carson, a 23-year-old living in Bedford Stuyvesant, got loud applause for suggesting that MTA officials take a pay cut.

“It’s actually insulting to me” to shoulder the financial burden, he said.

Still, the meeting was a staid affair with few people showing up compared to the raucous hearings before the “doomsday cuts” of 2010. There were apparently no state elected officials, who have a say in MTA finances, present. There were only a few speakers who actually opined on the two fare hike options before the MTA.

Still, the MTA’s chief spokesman Adam Lisberg said agency officials and board members took seriously the concerns of people who made an effort to attend. He also defended the need to raise fares and seek public opinion.

“Nobody likes to pay more for anything,” he said. “We know that any fare and toll increase is difficult for some people, but our costs are increasing despite more than a billion dollars worth of cuts we’ve made.”