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Off-Peak Fares Eyed for New York City Transit

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Off-Peak Fares Eyed for New York City Transit

By WILLIAM NEUMAN

September 25, 2007

 

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority yesterday proposed charging people less if they ride subways or buses during off-peak periods, in hopes of easing overcrowding during the commuting rushes.

 

Under the plan, however, most riders would be hit with steep increases, as the authority seeks to generate $580 million from fare and toll increases during the next two years.

 

The proposal was one of two possible fare-increase formulas offered by the transit agency. The other called for a more traditional set of increases, raising the base bus and subway fare to $2.25 from $2.

 

The off-peak discount proposal, which if approved would take effect early next year, also calls for a $2.25 base fare. Under this plan, a discounted fare of $1.50 would be available to some MetroCard users during off-peak hours.

 

But riders who buy the popular unlimited weekly or monthly passes would pay as much as 8 percent more and would not gain from the off-peak discount. Nearly half of all rides taken on the system are paid for with unlimited-ride passes.

 

And the authority would eliminate the current 20 percent bonus given to people who put $10 or more on a pay-per-ride MetroCard, which now gives them six rides for every five purchased, making the cost of each ride effectively $1.67.

 

Under the traditional increase being considered, the pay-per-ride bonus remains intact.

 

But Elliot G. Sander, the chief executive of the authority, said the alternative structure could help address the system’s rush hour congestion as well as generate more money.

 

“This is clearly new territory for us,” Mr. Sander said. “It is a very serious, innovative proposal.”

 

It would be relatively easy to program the turnstiles to charge different rates at different hours, officials said.

 

The authority has yet to determine which hours would be considered peak travel time, but officials said they would generally coincide with the morning and evening rushes.

 

Off-peak fares already exist on the region’s commuter rail lines. The transportation authority has experimented with limited weekend or evening subway and bus discounts in the past, but those efforts were eventually abandoned.

 

Susan Kupferman, the acting chief operating officer for the authority, told a committee of the transportation authority’s board yesterday that officials were not ready to estimate how many people might shift their travel times if they were charged less.

 

“The policy objective is to spread the peak by getting riders with some flexibility in their schedule to shift,” Ms. Kupferman said. “Even a small percentage shift equates to millions of rides a year.”

 

A discount would be available to anyone who puts at least $6 on a pay-per-ride MetroCard. During peak hours, passengers with those cards would be charged $2 for each ride, a discount from the new $2.25 base fare. During off-peak hours, $1.50 would be deducted from the card.

 

The full base fare would still be paid by riders who use cash on buses or who put only one or two rides on a fare card.

 

Overcrowding is a growing concern for the authority. It is undertaking customer surveys for its subway lines, and initial results show packed subway cars a major complaint among riders. But the century-old system has little capacity to add service.

 

The authority will flesh out plans for the fare increase next month and then hold public hearings in November. The authority board is expected to vote in December on how to proceed.

 

The reaction of straphangers to the proposal yesterday was largely driven by the flexibility — or lack of it — in their work schedules.

 

“I’m always looking for the most economical option, so I probably would try to take advantage of the discount,” said Patricia Gallardo, 48, of the Bronx, who normally puts $20 at a time on a pay-per-ride MetroCard to get to her jobs cleaning apartments. She said her work schedule might allow her to adjust her commute to save more money with an off-peak fare.

 

But Rhonda Rivera, 25, an accountant who lives on the Upper East Side, said she cannot change the time of day she commutes. She was also unhappy to hear that under the plan, the six rides for $10 bonus would be eliminated.

 

“The subway fares just keep going up,” Ms. Rivera said. “You feel like you get a little back with that bonus.”

 

While riders debated the possible off-peak pricing, transit advocates said that the overall increase is too steep.

 

Gene Russianoff, staff lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, a rider advocacy group, said the authority has taken “the state and city off the hook and put the burden on the riders.” Mr. Russianoff said that the authority deserved credit for trying to come up with an innovative formula for fares through the off-peak discount, but that the discount raised a host of questions about how it would work and who would use it.

 

The fare increase is being proposed even though the authority expects to end the year with close to a $1 billion budget surplus. But it has forecast large deficits beginning in 2009 because of rapidly increasing debt and pension costs and an expected decrease in revenues from taxes on real estate transactions. It says it needs to raise fares and tolls now to avoid a financial crisis.

 

The authority also proposed increases in Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North fares, which would go up in most cases by no more than 8 percent. Tolls on bridges and tunnels controlled by the authority would increase as well. E-ZPass users, who make up about 75 percent of drivers, would see one-way tolls on most crossings rise to $4.75 from $4.50.

 

Mathew R. Warren contributed reporting.

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Off-Peak Fares Eyed for New York City Transit

By WILLIAM NEUMAN

September 25, 2007

 

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority yesterday proposed charging people less if they ride subways or buses during off-peak periods, in hopes of easing overcrowding during the commuting rushes.

 

Under the plan, however, most riders would be hit with steep increases, as the authority seeks to generate $580 million from fare and toll increases during the next two years.

 

The proposal was one of two possible fare-increase formulas offered by the transit agency. The other called for a more traditional set of increases, raising the base bus and subway fare to $2.25 from $2.

 

The off-peak discount proposal, which if approved would take effect early next year, also calls for a $2.25 base fare. Under this plan, a discounted fare of $1.50 would be available to some MetroCard users during off-peak hours.

 

But riders who buy the popular unlimited weekly or monthly passes would pay as much as 8 percent more and would not gain from the off-peak discount. Nearly half of all rides taken on the system are paid for with unlimited-ride passes.

 

And the authority would eliminate the current 20 percent bonus given to people who put $10 or more on a pay-per-ride MetroCard, which now gives them six rides for every five purchased, making the cost of each ride effectively $1.67.

 

Under the traditional increase being considered, the pay-per-ride bonus remains intact.

 

But Elliot G. Sander, the chief executive of the authority, said the alternative structure could help address the system’s rush hour congestion as well as generate more money.

 

“This is clearly new territory for us,” Mr. Sander said. “It is a very serious, innovative proposal.”

 

It would be relatively easy to program the turnstiles to charge different rates at different hours, officials said.

 

The authority has yet to determine which hours would be considered peak travel time, but officials said they would generally coincide with the morning and evening rushes.

 

Off-peak fares already exist on the region’s commuter rail lines. The transportation authority has experimented with limited weekend or evening subway and bus discounts in the past, but those efforts were eventually abandoned.

 

Susan Kupferman, the acting chief operating officer for the authority, told a committee of the transportation authority’s board yesterday that officials were not ready to estimate how many people might shift their travel times if they were charged less.

 

“The policy objective is to spread the peak by getting riders with some flexibility in their schedule to shift,” Ms. Kupferman said. “Even a small percentage shift equates to millions of rides a year.”

 

A discount would be available to anyone who puts at least $6 on a pay-per-ride MetroCard. During peak hours, passengers with those cards would be charged $2 for each ride, a discount from the new $2.25 base fare. During off-peak hours, $1.50 would be deducted from the card.

 

The full base fare would still be paid by riders who use cash on buses or who put only one or two rides on a fare card.

 

Overcrowding is a growing concern for the authority. It is undertaking customer surveys for its subway lines, and initial results show packed subway cars a major complaint among riders. But the century-old system has little capacity to add service.

 

The authority will flesh out plans for the fare increase next month and then hold public hearings in November. The authority board is expected to vote in December on how to proceed.

 

The reaction of straphangers to the proposal yesterday was largely driven by the flexibility — or lack of it — in their work schedules.

 

“I’m always looking for the most economical option, so I probably would try to take advantage of the discount,” said Patricia Gallardo, 48, of the Bronx, who normally puts $20 at a time on a pay-per-ride MetroCard to get to her jobs cleaning apartments. She said her work schedule might allow her to adjust her commute to save more money with an off-peak fare.

 

But Rhonda Rivera, 25, an accountant who lives on the Upper East Side, said she cannot change the time of day she commutes. She was also unhappy to hear that under the plan, the six rides for $10 bonus would be eliminated.

 

“The subway fares just keep going up,” Ms. Rivera said. “You feel like you get a little back with that bonus.”

 

While riders debated the possible off-peak pricing, transit advocates said that the overall increase is too steep.

 

Gene Russianoff, staff lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, a rider advocacy group, said the authority has taken “the state and city off the hook and put the burden on the riders.” Mr. Russianoff said that the authority deserved credit for trying to come up with an innovative formula for fares through the off-peak discount, but that the discount raised a host of questions about how it would work and who would use it.

 

The fare increase is being proposed even though the authority expects to end the year with close to a $1 billion budget surplus. But it has forecast large deficits beginning in 2009 because of rapidly increasing debt and pension costs and an expected decrease in revenues from taxes on real estate transactions. It says it needs to raise fares and tolls now to avoid a financial crisis.

 

The authority also proposed increases in Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North fares, which would go up in most cases by no more than 8 percent. Tolls on bridges and tunnels controlled by the authority would increase as well. E-ZPass users, who make up about 75 percent of drivers, would see one-way tolls on most crossings rise to $4.75 from $4.50.

 

Mathew R. Warren contributed reporting.

 

I like the plan. It would benefit me since I am more of a weekend rider, I rarely use the subway during rush hours

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Since I ride the Bx19 bus twice a day, five days a week, I use a 30-day unlimited MetroCard, which, of course, costs $76 a month.

 

Now, if they're going to reduce the off-peak fare, it might be more efficient for me to use a pay-per-ride MetroCard. I take the Bx19 twice a day, five days a week. Only my morning ride is during the peak hour; my afternoon ride (except Tuesdays) is in the off-peak hour.

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This plan blows period! I don't work during off-peak hours. At least 75-80% of the total workforce of New York works during peak hours. Most people who work during off-peak hours already get a night time differential with their pay. How the hell is that going to solve anything. I'm really disappointed in the MTA right now to even suggest a bone headed plan like that.

 

I'd say cut down on the fancy technology and all the other unnecessary bullshit that us riders don't need and keep the fare the same for at least another year. As much as I hate to say it I would probably rather see more token booths close than get another fare hike. There's still a ton of station booths that don't need to be open. Of course as long as them damn metrocard machines don't brake down so often.

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