MTA Proposes Second Fare Hike in Five Years; Fordham Students React

NEW YORK – The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) is in talks to raise subway and toll fares by early next year. The fare hike is the only way to put the MTA “on a course of solid, long-term fiscal stability,” according to the MTA’s executive director, Elliot G. Sander. The discussion of a fare hike has some Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) students outraged.

“I think that [the proposal to raise fares] is absolutely ridiculous,” Jackie Perrone, FCLC ’09, said.  She adds that she has had particularly difficult commutes this summer due to slow-moving construction projects and constant line changes. “To think that they are even considering raising the fare is mind-blowing and absolutely unnecessary. [It is] all the more reason to dislike the MTA.”

Robert Isabella, FCLC ’09, is a commuter who says he is absolutely against a fare hike. “I understand that it’s the largest subway system in the country, but there was just another fare hike earlier this decade,” he said. “The cost of living is skyrocketing, and another fare hike is too much, especially for the working class and students.”

Fares were raised in 2003 and in 1995. In 1995, subway fares were set at $1.50. They were raised dramatically to the current rate of $2 in 2003. It has remained static ever since, but Sander announced on July 26 that a minor fare hike this year is necessary to maintain the MTA budget and prevent more dramatic hikes in the future.

The hike is controversial because the MTA has a reported surplus of about $1 billion, according to The New York Times. Sander explained at a July 25 MTA board meeting that $650 million of that surplus should be put toward thwe MTA’s debt, and about $100 million should be used for ‘service enhancements,’ such as hiring new workers and cleaning up stations and subway cars. This still leaves a surplus of over $300 million.

Responses to a potential fare hike have been mixed. Representatives of the subway advocacy group, the Straphangers Campaign, may back the fare hike, albeit with some reservations. The New York Times reported the Straphangers’ staff lawyer Gene Russianoff as saying, “They have good arguments and I think they’re worth listening to.” He added, “It’s tough asking for a fare hike when they’re rolling in dough.”

The fare hikes would undoubtedly affect students, as many FCLC students use mass transit several times a day. Autumn Burnette, FCLC ’09, buys a 30-Day Unlimited MetroCard each month to get to and from rehearsals and work downtown. At $76, she says the price is “already kind of steep.” She is afraid that if the monthly fares go up, she will have to alter her spending.

Michael McBride, FCLC ’10, agrees. “The subway is the only inexpensive thing in the city. Four dollars for transportation isn’t too bad, but I still limit myself when I take the subway just because I am always so low on cash.”

The MTA is also considering selling exclusive advertising rights of large stations such as Times Square to major corporations like Disney in order to raise revenue. MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin told the Daily News, “If we get the sense that people don’t mind being bombarded with advertising, we might consider going in that direction.”

“I would pay the money, but I don’t really like the idea,” Willa Burke, FCLC ’09, said. “I don’t know whether there are other options, but something definitely needs to be done.”