Subway Ridership Hits Record High—So Why Are We Talking about a Fare Hike?

nyc subway transit

It seems logical to think since more people are paying to ride the subway, the MTA must be making more money. Right? Well, kinda. Despite a peak in subway use—the MTA recorded four record-high ridership days last month—transit authority faces a $15 billion budget gap for next year, which it may need to fill by borrowing cash if state lawmakers don’t approve its proposed capital funding campaign. If the MTA borrows money to finance itself, the result could be a 15 percent hike in per-ride fares—11 percent more than the planned 4 percent hike. WiFi is kind of exciting, we know, because who wants to miss out on work emails on their way home from work? But if it means spending even more money that we already do, it might be time to winterize your bike.

The New York Post reported that on September 23, the New York City subway saw more than 6.1 million riders, which is the highest number since the MTA began recording daily ridership, in 1985. MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast claims these numbers as rationale for the agency’s proposed 5-year, $32 billion capital campaign, which was recently vetoed by a state review board, according to the Post.

The notion of biking to work to avoid all this nonsense may be just a tad too Brooklyn survivalist, because obviously biking to work (even in nice weather) is an extreme privilege, both geographically and physically. Even if you have a car here, traffic and parking make the commute almost more trouble than it’s worth, making public transit essentially the only means of getting to work for everyone in the city who can’t walk or take a cab to work.

When you consider any increase in the cost of public transit against this realities of rising rents, which typically force people to move farther from work and rely more heavily on buses and subways, and the general increase in the cost of living, irrespective of an unflinching minimum wage, it starts to teeter on the edge of untenable. Most New Yorkers already pay well over 30 percent of their income in housing costs, with many paying more than 50 percent. How much are we willing to pay to get between the increasingly far-apart poles of home and work?

Basically, we’re over a barrel. A crowded, crumbling, kind-of-unreliable barrel (but with WiFi and fancy new touchscreens), which for silly reasons depends on Albany to agree to what New York City dwellers need or don’t need. Help us out here, y’all.

Follow John Sherman on Twitter @_john_sherman.

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