posted 2012-12-18 18:57:39

How the MTA is Giving Straphangers the Shaft

MTA fare hikes continue to increase 

Precious Piovanetti

Staff Writer

Before I begin my diatribe against the MTA, I need to first give credit where credit is due. There’s no denying that the MTA completely stepped up their game during and after Hurricane Sandy. I was completely taken aback, after viewing some of the photos that circulated around the Internet of train stations throughout the five boroughs, by how quickly subway service was restored. I was equally amazed that in a matter of days select bus service was restored along with several different interboro shuttle bus routes.

Although I was impressed by the MTA’s newfound efficiency, I was not fooled for long by their post-disaster ruse. Once the city started to run at normal capacity again, the MTA announced they weren’t going to credit any unused rides on either regular or unlimited Metrocards during Sandy. Oh, and in case you might have forgotten because you were too busy trying to rebuild or figuring out how to get your electricity back, they kindly reminded us that the fare hikes will continue and that fare hike hearings will go on as scheduled.

Since I graduated high-school and the luxury of having a free student Metrocard became a bitter memory, a Metrocard has always been detrimental to my budget, and it hasn’t gotten better as I’ve gotten older. Growing up means more responsibilities, such as paying for your own tuition, trying to move out and maintaining your grades while working a mediocre job so that can barely pay for what I mentioned above. Although my income isn’t as dreary as it was coming fresh out of highschool, the fact that rising costs for going from point A to point B have become as constant as yearly taxes negates any economic progress I’ve made since then. We’ve become jaded to tax raises because, when it comes right down to it, there’s not much the average Joe can do. We are just as jaded when it comes to MTA fare hikes because, like taxes, they happen regardless of what we think, and we have to accept them whether we like it or not. But is that really the case? Do we actually have a shot at fighting fare hikes? Have we simply fallen victim to our lazy “it is what it is” attitude? Or is the idea of our voice being heard through these hearings just an illusion to keep angry straphangers at bay?

I admit that I didn’t attend this year’s fare hike hearings, so I guess that puts me in the apathetic “it is what it is” mind set group, but I am not the only member. Fewer than 50 people showed up to the fare hike hearing in Brooklyn, and the turnout in the rest of the boroughs wasn’t much higher. Before I start scolding New Yorkers on their slacktivism, I honestly don’t think we are at fault for the bleak turnout. For starters, New Yorkers throughout the five boroughs were still trying to recover from Sandy. Granted, the option to attend a hearing where you can just yell at a board of men who have to remain silent throughout seems very appealing, but people had bigger fish to fry, such as, you know, trying to get electricity and running water back. Although New Yorkers were given the “privilege” of calling in their response via webcam, I still think that if the MTA really wanted a “fair” hearing, they should have taken into consideration the real impact of Hurricane Sandy and postponed. If that wasn’t enough to put a damper (no pun intended) on resident turnout, there was also the fact it was on the same day as the nor’easter, which was all over the news and confirmed by almost every weather source almost a week before. I guess the MTA operates on the US Postal Service’s motto: whether rain, snow, nor’easter or post-hurricane, the fare hike hearing must be delivered.

The MTA continues to raise fares because they know they can. They provide a service that people depend on daily, and because of that they know that, no matter how much they charge, we’ll always pay. With the fiscal cliff looming and the job market still scarce, we literally cannot afford to play the fare hike game with the MTA anymore. It may seem like a pointless fight, but if there’s going to be any change we’re going to have to be the ones to initiate it, and it’s going to take a lot more than just 50 people.