MTA Fare Hikes Costly for Fordham Students

Commuters and Residents Alike Say the Seemingly-Small Increase Will Add Up

By Anndrew Vacca
Staff Writer
Published: April 9, 2009

David Lempka, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’11, said that he spends at least $12 per week on subway fare. Lempka works on 110th Street and commutes to his job three afternoons per week.

“In one week, I ride the subway six times for my job alone. When other travel is factored in, I can easily say that I spend $20 a week on Metrocards,” Lempka said.

His job as an intern at a child developmental center, provided by Fordham’s work-study program, pays nearly $90 per week.

“Almost a quarter of my weekly budget is spent on travel costs,” Lempka said. “As a college student, that’s a huge cut.”

With the recent passing of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)’s self-described “doomsday budget,” Lempka, along with thousands of other Fordham students—both commuter and resident—will feel the increase.

According to Newsday, the MTA passed a measure on March 25 that will increase subway fare by 50 cents per single ride. For Lempka, that means an additional $10 per week for travel.

“At first glance,” Lempka said, “it doesn’t look that threatening. But when you factor it in, it truly does add up.”

Newsday reported that the passing of the proposal has sparked talks between the MTA and the New York State Government to reach a deal that would “stave off” the rate hike but would also add millions to the state budget. The “MTA bailout” proposed by Democrats in the New York State Senate would pour state funds into the struggling MTA, a measure widely supported by city Mayor Michael Bloomberg, state Governor David Patterson and the MTA itself.

The bailout faces some harsh opposition in the Senate, where some politicians say that it is not the responsibility of the New York State Government to “bail out” the MTA.

“I understand the opposition, and I understand that the money has to come from somewhere,” Lempka said. “But as a college student, just trying to get to work-study, it is certainly not one of my main concerns.”

According to Newsday, the state government cannot use the federal bailout money it received for “operational costs” for mass transit. The money, the article said, is intended strictly for “infrastructure improvements,” meaning that the MTA’s bailout would be funded in part by increased gasoline and commuter taxes. As of April 1, the New York Daily News reported that the chances that the state government will pass the MTA bailout look “grim.”

According to the New York Times, without the bailout the MTA has said that subway fares will not be the only increase that travelers will feel. Under the reduced budget, fares on commuter rails will increase by at least 20 percent, and some bridges and tunnels, including the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, will increase by nearly 30 percent. In addition, 35 bus routes and two subway lines, the W and Z, will be eliminated.

The potential hikes have many furious. A Facebook group in opposition to the fare hike, “A Million Strong Against the NY MTA Fare Hike,” already has over 8,500 members. Laura Veras, FCLC ’10, is a member of the group, along with other Fordham students.

“I’ll be on my own when I finish college, and who knows what the fare will be in another year?” Veras said. “At that point, I guess I’d have to limit my trips to only necessary places, walk as much as I can, maybe carpool.”

Some of those hardest hit by the increase will be commuters. At FCLC, nearly 50 percent of students commute daily to and from school, according to Fordham’s Web site. For a monthly unlimited Metrocard, which now costs $81, the cost will jump to $103, a 25 percent increase.

Sam Lopresti, FCLC ’11, says that as a theatre major and a commuter, his travel bill will increase exponentially.

“I’m traveling from home to school a lot more than the normal commuter in order to get to rehearsals, and I have to go to my job on top of that in SoHo,” Lopresti said. “I just think it’s ridiculous that the MTA is raising fares considering the fact that they can’t make the subways work right.”

Lopresti said, “I have to plan every trip around the city, taking into account the fact that I can’t rely on the trains getting me there on time. I have to pay a significantly larger portion of my paycheck each month in order to get the same dismal service. I’m not all that happy over it.”

Other commuters said that they share Lopresti’s sentiment. Maria Portilla, FCLC ’11, said that her commuter experience is about to become a lot more “challenging.”

Portilla said, “I will definitely have to save more money out of each of my paychecks to cover the increase. A dollar may not seem like much at first, but after a few trips to and from school, it will definitely add up quickly.”

Lempka said that between school and work, it will be hard for him to find ways to foot the bill.

“I just hope that the MTA and the state government come to some sort of an agreement before this all goes through,” he said.

The fare increase, according to Newsday, will go into effect
on May 31.