The MTA announced last month that it was proposing raising fares by 4% next year, and last night the agency's board put on its best stoic face to give riders an opportunity to vent and comment on which of the two fare hike proposals they should pursue.
BMCC student and Ozone Park resident Sherrod Stanton let the board know that he thought both proposals are "garbage," and that he was running out of affordable options to commute to his retail job and school.
“I’m going to have to get my driver’s license, carpool with someone, or get a bike and ride from Ozone Park all the way to 34th Street Herald Square,” Stanton said. "You raise it a quarter every two years. It might not be a lot to you guys, you can afford that. But people in areas like me, lower income areas, like 30 dollars is half my paycheck. Price goes up but our paychecks don't go up."
Stanton added that that he couldn't fathom a $116.50 monthly MetroCard given what he perceived as a decline in quality and service.
"I don't see anything being done with the trains, I don't see anything being done with the efficiency. I would like to know where all this money is going." (Much of it goes to banks in the form of interest and debt service.)
Bed-Stuy resident and Harlem community organizer Ryan Carson, 23, has spoken at several MTA hearings since 2010 and was hoping to not speak at last night's hearing. But after seeing the lack of attendees, he stepped up.
"I'd just like to propose that maybe instead of putting the burden on us riders, perhaps you guys take a cut in pay," he told the board.
(While they might not feel the affects of a fare hike like the people they serve, MTA board members are not paid, but they are allowed to take free rides. CEO and Chairman Thomas Prendergast earns around
$360,000 $325,600 a year.)
The speakers were conflicted as to whether the MTA should eliminate the bonus.
"In addition to speaking up to the MTA board members who are here tonight, we encourage our fellow riders to join with us to hold Governor Cuomo and our elected representatives in the state legislature accountable for the consequences of their important funding decisions," Nizar said.
Nancy Rankin, vice president for policy at Community Service Society of New York highlighted how one out of three lower income residents cannot afford the current commuting prices and suggested the organizations own formula for assisting them.
"The fares are already unaffordable for a vast number of New Yorkers. Seniors and people with disabilities can get half priced reduced fares on the MTA. Why not the poor?" she asked.
The board members said little in reply to any of the speakers, and thanked them for their time after the last one came forward. "It's weird at these types of things because you make your comment, and then they just all stare at you blankly. It doesn't even feel like a democratic process," Carson said.
Jeanette Jones, a retired Brooklyn resident who relies on a scooter for mobility, told the board that living on a fixed income made everything much more expensive and that they should be more mindful of families with children and commuters with disabilities.
"Find a way to make it affordable, then you wouldn't have so many turnstile jumpers and kids getting on the bus saying 'I don't have a bus pass', they're too ashamed to say 'my mother doesn't have the money, my dad doesn't have the money,' " Jones said.
Tonight's public hearing is in Westchester, but there will be more in the coming weeks. Find a location near you here .