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To Save New York City Transit

It’s official: to stave off the giant declines in tax revenues for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency will be doing the following:

  • Raising fares and tolls systemwide by 23% (probably means increasing base fare from $2.00 to $2.50 and a monthly pass to $100.00)
  • Firing 2700 people who work for New York City Transit, 173 for Long Island Rail Road, and 88 for Metro-North
  • Eliminating the W and Z Subway Lines (which would not involve closing any stops)
  • Shortening the route of the M and G Subway Lines
  • Lowering the frequency of letter-line trains from 8 minutes to 10 minutes on weekends
  • Lowering the frequency of all trains from 20 minutes to 30 minutes from 2 to 5 am

The overall consequence of these draconian cuts will be dramatically less productive service from the nation’s largest transit provider in a city that relies completely on transit.

These are incredibly scary cuts, especially in light of the fact that the system is unable at the moment to fund its next 5-year plan. Something must be done.

MTA leaders are suggesting that the only way to avert the proposed cuts is to demand more money from the city and state. But the fact is that both of those levels of government are also facing dramatic cuts – and they don’t have the ability to increase funding. So the only real place to turn is Washington. The federal government must take a position and increase funding.

This is especially true for a very simple reason: New York City’s farebox recovery ratio is higher than that of any other transit system in the country. What does this mean? More of the system is paid for directly through fares – 67% – than anywhere else in the United States, and the proposed changes would increase this ratio to an astounding and inappropriate 83%. BART’s ratio is 45%; L.A’s is 31%; Washington’s is 62%.

New York City should not be forced to rely so much more on fares than these other systems, especially when the subways have been attracting more and more riders every year. It would be simply unreasonable for the federal government to allow the city’s transit system to sink into an abyss because of a lack of funds from external sources.

4 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Please add some explanation of how the MTA service cuts will lead to “dramatically less productive service.” I assume you’re using “productive” in the industry-standard sense, which refers to ridership per unit of service cost (typically measured in revenue hours).

    The MTA cuts have been selected based on where productivity is currently low (relatively, by NYC standards.) Typically, such cuts lead to ridership falls, but because these were relatively low-ridership services the ridership loss isn’t as great as the cost savings. As a result, productivity — ridership per unit of cost — usually goes up.

  • thetransportpolitic

    Thanks Jarrett –

    Actually, I think you make a pretty good point – I should stop with the exaggerated statements.

    And yes, by definition, the railroad will become more productive, because it will be carrying the same number people on the fewer trains.

    I suppose what I meant to say in using the term “productive” was that the people using the trains – the riders – would be getting poorer service as a consequence of the proposed changes. Their daily commutes are likely to increase in time and in stress, and this is the problem. New York’s subway is already moving too many people in too few trains, and these cuts will make the system all the more crowded.

    Anyway, thanks for the language policing – I’ll work on avoiding poorly-chosen statements like that in the future!

  • Nathanael Nerode

    The cuts are actually reasonable in a certain sense; they’re far less draconian than the “doomsday cuts” in Chicago, the closure of an entire line for a year done also in Chicago, the total elimination of night service done in many places, or some of the actual entire-line discontinuances made nationwide in the Transit Holocaust.

    The fare increases are steep but not *completely* out of line (check out Portland!). (The fare increase may indeed be calculated to drive people off the overcrowded trains.)

    Unfortunately, even *with* the cuts and the fare increases, this
    *still* leaves the MTA in a giant hole for *capital* spending: they have decades of deferred maintenance, many much-delayed upgrade projects which would improve efficiency *and* service, and so on. For instance, track and signalling upgrades would do wonders, and the Fulton Street Transit Center would redistribute passengers between lines, evening system load; the third track project on the LIRR would give vital redundancy and massive capacity increases. And there’s no money forthcoming for any of that, either.

    So even after the cuts and fare increases the MTA will *still* need a *lot* of additonal money, or it will get far far worse very quickly.

  • “(The fare increase may indeed be calculated to drive people off the overcrowded trains.)”

    Where do they go?

    There’s too many people on the trains. There’s too many people on the streets which makes slow going for buses and cars. Should people start hang gliding to work?

    The mantra of mass transit officials is that there is never any money. The money is there, except it’s going to bail out wall street and the auto companies.

    Even a small fraction of that 700 billion could go a long way to help fund our nation’s various transit systems. Hell, there would be enough left over for all the other various social programs that pussy liberals like me want.

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