This website is no longer actively maintained
Some material and features may be unavailable
March 25th, 2009
The end of the line: New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority Increases Fares and Cuts Services

Tom McNamara, Blueprint America
Two-thirds of all mass transit riders in the United States use the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) of New York’s system. The MTA board voted Wednesday, The New York Times reported, “to enact a series of fare hikes and service cutbacks needed to keep the transit system from going broke.”

About 1,100 of the authority’s 70,000 employees will be laid off. Fares for commuter rail, subway and bus transit will increase at least 20 percent across the board. Service cuts include the elimination of 35 bus routes and two subway lines, the W and Z. Off-peak and weekend subway, bus and commuter rail service will be cut back. Existing tolls on bridges will also rise.

Still, the MTA had hoped to avoid the draconian measures.

The vote came as legislators at the state capitol in New York have so far failed to act on a plan developed by a panel headed by the MTA’s former chairman, Richard Ravitch, imposing tolls on free East River and Harlem River bridges and creating a new corporate payroll tax to fill the budget gap.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Budget Problems

Operating budget (2008): $11 billion
Projected operating budget (2009): $13 billion
Operating budget deficit: $1.2 billion
Funding breakdown for operating budget (2008):

Funding breakdown for Metropolitan Transit Authority operating budget (2008)

Ridership 2007: 2.3 billion (bus and subway)
Ridership 2008: 2.4 billion (bus and subway)

After weeks of debate and deliberation, The New York Times reported, “several Democratic senators from Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx remain adamantly opposed to the tolls. And with Democrats holding a bare 32-30 majority in the Senate, and Republicans refusing to provide any votes for the plan, the Senate majority leader, Malcolm A. Smith, has been forced to come up with an alternative plan that could win enough support to pass in his chamber…”

That plan, though, comes up too short in adequately addressing the MTA’s budget needs – a deficit of $1.2 billion in operating costs alone. It includes a 4 percent fare increase, half of what Ravitch had proposed, and would impose a tax of 25 cents on every $100 of payroll on employers within the 12 counties served by the authority, significantly less than the 34 cents that Ravitch had proposed.

As a result, with no sufficient alternatives offered by the state legislature – and with no new tolling on drivers – the MTA voted to burden local transit users (who already cover the highest proportion of transit operating expenses in the country) to keep the system from bankruptcy.

A look at the subway fare increase

Fare Type


After Increase

Base Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard Fare
Cash/Single-Ride Ticket
Pay-Per-Ride Bonus and Minimum Purchase
15% with $7 or more purchase
15% with $7 or more purchase
Effective Pay-Per-Ride Fare with Bonus
Unlimited Ride MetroCard

Source: Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) of New York

Produced by THIRTEEN   ©2018 WNET.ORG Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.