MTA bus (278806)
Credit: Bill Moore photo

The MTA celebrated another resurrection on Sunday when fare hikes went into effect.

Under the new fare hikes, seven-day unlimited MetroCards increase from $32 to $33, seven-day express bus plus unlimited ride MetroCards increase from $59.50 to $62 and 30-day and calendar monthly unlimited ride MetroCards increase from $121 to $127.

Jeffrey Maclin, vice president of governmental and public relations of the Community Service Society, said that the fare hikes would negatively affect working class New Yorkers.

“The latest round of fare increases on our city’s subways and buses will have an effect on all transit users,” said Maclin in a statement to the AmNews. “However, for the lowest income New Yorkers with tight budgets, a small change in the cost of getting to work can have serious repercussions. In 2016, our ‘Unheard Third Survey’ showed that one in four low-income New Yorkers regularly could not afford subway and bus, and that was before the last two fare increases.”

The MTA didn’t only increase the cost of MetroCards. They increased prices on UniTicket and One-Way connecting fares as well. Weekly UniTicket connecting fares for the Hudson Rail Link increased by 50 cents, the monthly UniTicket connecting fares for the Hudson Rail Link increased by $1.50, Weekly UniTicket connecting fares for local NYC bus service increased by $25 and the monthly UniTicket connecting fares for local NYC bus service increased by $2.

New York City Councilman and Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez said that he doesn’t mind the fare increase, but only if residents see a significant change right away. Rodriguez also wanted New Yorkers who qualify for the Fair Fares program to take advantage and apply.

“With the fare increase, New Yorkers have to start seeing improvements in the overall quality of the Transit System,” stated Rodriguez. “No more delays, riders have been asking for an improvement for years it is time they see one.”

New Yorkers who qualify for Fair Fares are eligible for up to a 50 percent discount on subway and eligible bus fares. They can also get discounts on Pay-per-Ride, weekly unlimited and monthly unlimited options.

“The Fair Fares program that provides half-priced MetroCards to New Yorkers at or below poverty is a clear way to address the disparity in transit access that these fare increases only exacerbate,” said Maclin. “Affordable MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers can mean not having to choose between buying subway fare and buying a meal, or between getting to work on time and risking arrest or fines for failing to pay.”

In February, the MTA approved fare and toll hikes as it faces an alleged $1 billion budget gap by 2022. Acting MTA Chairman and former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer said that money issues at the MTA were “daunting” and the agency plans on another fare and toll hike in 2021.

But Maclin just wants New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the MTA to promote the Fair Fares program.

“While the rollout of this program has been slower than anticipated, the administration has stated that all those eligible for this important anti-poverty initiative will be able to apply by January 2020, a promise that must be kept to ensure that all city residents can get where they need to go,” said Maclin.

But the MTA might continue to run into problems due to a $400 million payroll spike. According to a study by fiscal watchdog group Empire Center, this spike could be attributed to a surge in overtime pay.

According to the study, overtime went up 16 percent in 2018 with the average total overtime pay for all transit workers employed that year at $84,265. The study states that this continues a five-year trend which has seen the MTA overtime pay increase by 87 percent. The study also includes a searchable database at SeeThroughNY.net including names, job titles and salaries for more than 80,000 MTA employees.

The total payroll hike from overtime, $418 million, is $82 million more than MTA officials expect to raise annually from the latest fare hikes.