When you swiped your MetroCard or tapped your OMNY card at the turnstile this morning, you probably noticed that you paid fifteen cents more than you used to for your ride to school. Did you feel the sting of your wallet as it dawned on you that the cost of your rides would quickly add up over the next weeks? If you are upset about the fare hike, you are not alone; groups of students are protesting the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Board’s recent vote to increase fares by 5.5 percent — a significant increase from the pre-pandemic, regular annual fare increase of four percent.
The MTA fare hike was proposed in May of this year after original discussions of raising the fare took a pause during the pandemic. The reason for the hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue have come from the continuing fare evasions and decimated subway ridership since the start of the pandemic. New York Governor Kathy Hochul backed the MTA with funding after the idea was proposed. The fare hike went into effect on August 20th, five days before CUNY students returned to campus for Fall classes.
The vast majority of transit riders, including CUNY students, have yet to see improvements to the public transit system while the fare hike is currently drilling a hole in their wallets. The sense of anger towards the fare hike is mainly due to how the MTA has failed to ensure a cleaner, safer, more equitable, and accessible riding experience.
Professor James Vacca from the Urban Studies Department believes that the fare hike disproportionally affects the people who rely on public transit the most and cannot afford it. “As we come out of COVID and want to discourage people from using their cars, this fare hike happened at a particularly bad time,” Vacca said. “Commuters want safe and dependable service. They want better bus headway time. Expanding the use of our city’s vast waterfront to include more ferry service is important especially for those who live in ‘transit desert’ communities. We must also speed up the modification of train stations to assure access for our disabled community.”
Student advocates from the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) testified in a public hearing at the MTA Headquarters in June to “#StopTheFareHikes.” The widespread protests to the MTA fare hike are a collective call to regulate the industry. New Yorkers and CUNY students alike are fighting for a more sustainable public transit system, one swipe at a time. The Knight News asked Queens College NYPIRG’s Project Coordinator, Scott Smith, if this recent fare hike is justified.
“The fare hike is not fair, it’s New York City’s poor and working poor communities that take the MTA the most,” Smith said. “Raising the fare as dramatically as they did will disproportionately impact these disadvantaged communities while having a minimal impact on wealthy New Yorkers.”
The question then becomes what QC students can do about this hike. “In dealing with the fare increase, NYPIRG encourages people to see if they qualify for the Fair Fares program, which will give them access to a 50% discount on MetroCards,” Smith said. “We also encourage people to join our campaign for more accessible and equitable public transit – our straphangers campaign!”Find the Fair Fares NYC program, that provides half-fare MetroCards to transit users who meet the guidelines, here: Fair Fares NYC Students can also apply to the Queens College Emergency MetroCard Program, an Emergency Grant for students that are in need of financial assistance. More information can be found here: https://www.qc.cuny.edu/sl/emergency-fundservices/. The Queens College NYPIRG chapter meets every Wednesday at 12:15 in the Student Union building, room LL-36