New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority has proposed a 5.5 percent fare hike next year. This increase would push subway and bus fares to $2.90 in 2023 and $3.05 in 2025. However, the fare prices haven’t been raised since 2019 in an effort to keep the city’s public transportation network universally affordable in the face of the pandemic and resultant economic upheaval. The fare’s recent stability had even broken the pizza principle, the local economic rule-of-thumb that subway fare was roughly tied with the average price of a slice of pizza.
According to Bloomberg, the MTA projects that it could face a $3 billion budget deficit in 2025. The MTA’s ridership hasn’t recovered from the pandemic’s start and has plateaued at 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels. The agency tends to raise fares by four percent every two years, but hasn’t in almost four years. The largest public transportation system in the county now needs a significant boost in revenue.
It should be noted that the MTA is owned and controlled by the State of New York, not the City of New York. In late 2021, Governor Kathy Hochul promised to table fare hikes indefinitely and delayed an increase for six months, past the June 2022 date of a contentious primary election that she won. A potential fare hike was again postponed to 2023. This was primarily possible because of federal funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
To both cover the budget deficit and indefinitely delay fare hikes, the MTA will require significant federal, state and municipal funding. Janno Lieber, the Chief Executive Officer of the MTA, told the press after a board meeting earlier this week: “If they also want to help us come up with an answer that makes the fare hike unnecessary, we’re all ears. But obviously, we’re trying to be responsible by putting on the table — as they have in past existential budget crises for the MTA — an approach on the fare issue that is moderate and designed to protect the riders.”
Affordable public transportation is a vital element of keeping New York City’s economic engine running, providing an essential service for all residents. However, the 118-year-old system must be maintained and updated to serve its purpose properly.