Albany lawmakers may be blowing off the MTA's warnings of an impending budget crisis, but a new piece of legislation approved by both the Senate and the Assembly yesterday proves they haven't totally forgotten about the world's largest subway system: Pending Cuomo's approval, every turnstile swipe with a pay-per-ride MetroCard will come with two free transfers, as opposed to just one. Oh Albany, you're gonna spoil us.
Under current law, each swipe comes with one free transfer valid for two hours, which is helpful for those commuters—primarily in outer boroughs—who rely on multiple buses, trains, or some combination of the two to get to work. However, due to "recent cutbacks in services and outright elimination of various bus and subway lines," the bill posits, some routes require commuters to purchase two fares, twice a day.
The language gets a bit grandiose from there: "This bill would ensure that no commuter or rider financially suffers due to cutbacks in service that already add time and stress to a commute."
The problem, the MTA retorts, is the amount of money that extra transfer will cost an already-struggling system. According to an official statement from the MTA, "If this bill were enacted, each weekday over 50,000 full-fare and reduced-fare customers would gain a free ride, which would cost the MTA nearly $40 million a year in lost revenue." The statement goes on to suggest that any rider with multiple-transfer woes should invest in an unlimited MetroCard. (Granted, those require a monthly, all-at-once cash dump of $116.50).
Gene Russianoff, a spokesman for the Straphangers Campaign which advocates for commuter rights, is supportive of the legislation. "There are some policies that make sense," he said. "I grew up in Sheepshead Bay, where you had to take two buses to make it to the train. The question is, why should those people [on bus lines] pay more?"
Still, "There are a lot of things the MTA could do that would be good. But can they afford them?"