By Sandra Stelmach
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) increased fares for transportation services and structures on Friday, March 1. The fares affected bridges, buses, subways, trains and transportation all across the board. Many who commute, or will commute, are affected.
MTA subway and bus fares increased from $2.25 to $2.50. Monthly MetroCards increased to $112 from $104. Among other MetroCard increases, the purchase of a new card will cost an extra dollar. As for the LIRR, depending on the distanced traveled, the prices can range between a 7.1 and 15.3 percent increase — but the additional cost doesn’t exceed 75 cents. For most bridges and tunnels, the crossing prices will increase to $5.33 from $4.80 for E-ZPass holders and $7.50 from $6.50 for those who pay with cash.
“The percentage increase for MTA customers varies. But in most cases, commuting will cost more than it did before,” said Salvatore Arena, the spokesman for the MTA and Long Island Railroad (LIRR).
The metropolitan area and the surrounding areas, such as Stony Brook University, have one of the largest commuter populations that relies on public transportation services. Faculty and staff need to go to and from work while students need to get to and from school.
Stony Brook University accommodates for more than 12,000 commuter students plus all the university’s employees. Although many drive, others take the train.
“I paid $82 a month for the train before the increase. Now, I pay $89 per month,” said Michael Giusto, a sophomore commuting from Greenlawn, NY, which is about a 35-minute ride.
Despite the increase in train and subway fares, the prices are much better than what it would cost in gas to drive a car. Previous fare hikes were seen in the year 2009 and 2011. The trend continued this year from the increase seen in the past four years and the trend will continue.
Another fare hike is expected in 2015.
“I think it’s wrong to do,” said Lisa Corleto, a junior commuter student from Deer Park.
According to Arena, the fares collected from customers of the MTA pays for only about half of the actual cost of providing train and bus service. The other funding comes from the federal government, the counties the MTA serves, tunnel and bridge tolls, and taxes.
Although consumers are currently only spending a fraction of the entire cost of maintaining and operating public services, the price will consistently rise.
“People depend on those modes of transportation and it consumes more and more of their income making everything else difficult to afford,” Corleto said.
The State Legislature is responsible for determining the level of state taxes towards the MTA. However, the MTA Board of Directors has the final say.
Public hearings are held which go over the proposed budget. The fares are then negotiated to make them more appealing to MTA users.
“The MTA knows that no fare increase would be welcome by the public,” Arena said.