As ridership slowly returns to mass transit, MTA board members announced they will not push for a fare hike this year.
The MTA announced Monday that a previously postponed fare hike will not happen at all in 2021. MTA board member Larry Schwartz, who chairs the finance committee and is a close confidante and adviser to Governor Cuomo, said it would be inappropriate to raise fares, during Monday’s MTA committee meetings.
“Now is not the time to raise fares,” Schwartz said Monday. “At a time when we need to encourage increasing ridership, raising fares does the opposite.”
MTA spokesperson Tim Minton confirmed there would be no fare hikes this year in a Tweet shortly after Schwartz’s comments.
MTA Finance Chair Larry Schwartz announces “There’s not going to be a fare hike, period” for NYC subways and buses in 2021.
— Tim Minton (@timmintonNY) July 19, 2021
“Not having to pay more to ride transit in 2021 is good news that riders can use,” Lisa Daglian, who represents riders on the MTA board as the Executive Director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee, wrote in a statement.
Schwartz said instead the MTA should find a “more equitable and fair structure” such as off peak and peak charges, and perhaps charge tourists more, although he didn’t elaborate on other ways to reduce MTA fares for New Yorkers.
Daglian added that she’d like to see the MTA expand the Freedom Ticket pilot, which she thinks “would encourage even more riders to get on board — critical as our region and economy continue to rebound and reopen.”
Following up on his boss’s olive branch to the Democratic mayoral nominee Eric Adams, Schwartz called on forming a renewed relationship with the city to help work on funding the MTA.
“We should be working with mayor-elect Adams, the new council speaker, the new council board members, we should be working with our state legislative partners and looking at various ways to generate revenue to support this agency,” Schwartz said. (Adams is not the mayor-elect; he will face Republican Curtis Sliwa in the general election this November.)
Schwartz said the MTA board would have had to vote on a fare increase at the next board meeting in September if it was to go into effect by November. He said he’ll make a motion at Wednesday’s full board meeting to not raise fares. However, speaking to two reporters after the meeting, Schwartz did suggest that fares may be raised in 2022.
“The governor should stop any fare hikes until ridership has substantially returned,” Danny Pearstein with Riders Alliance wrote in a statement. “A fare hike this year would be highly inequitable, contribute to growing gridlock, and slow the city’s reopening and recovery.”
Another program that was supposed to generate billions of dollars for the MTA, congestion pricing, is still in the “discussion” phase with federal officials, according to the agency, despite pressure from Mayor de Blasio last week to move things along faster.
Ridership across the MTA’s properties is returning, if a little unevenly. While the subways are seeing a stretch of more than 2.5 million riders a day, it’s still down 52 percent from pre-pandemic levels. Bus ridership is only down about 40 percent from before the pandemic. And in June, bridge and tunnel crossings were down only 3% compared to 2019 levels.
The MTA is capturing revenue from the return of drivers. While it held off on fare hikes, toll hikes went into effect in April.