Category Archives: discounts

MTA to NYC: Drop Dead

So, it is the dawn of day 4 of the doomsday service cuts in NYC. My commute has been complicated a little by the changes – I have to leave home for work about 15 minutes earlier than before just to be SURE that I can get the bus to the subway station and get to work on time. 15 minutes is a lot of time, but some commuters are seeing 30 and 45 minutes added to their commutes, so I won’t complain too loudly.

The cuts eliminated two subway lines and dozens of bus lines, changed the routing of one subway line and now add additional wait times for everyone riding the subway or bus. The cuts could not come at a worse time when NYC is trying to drag itself out of the Great Recession and we experienced a heat wave the early part of this week.

Walder, the head of the Transit Authority, promises no fare increases this year. He would have been met with the stereotypical New York attitude if they even tried to pull that move – higher fares and less service? Fagetaboutit. However, fare increases WILL come in 2011. Brace for it. We’ll probably see $100 dollar monthly MetroCards, which is still a great deal for unlimited rides for 30 days. The most important thing at this point is to realize that we’ve been underpaying for the service and allow fares to be collected that are more in line with what rides are around the world for world class systems. The NY subway system is world class in some ways (24 hour service, access to all parts of the city) but in other ways, can use some serious technological upgrades that will improve the riding public’s experience and overall safety.

I don’t want to see a zone fare introduced – especially as someone who travels 32 miles round-trip on the subway each day. Instead, I want to see more realistic fares and discounted passes that really mean the agency can make money. Even in my poor/lower middle class neighborhood, most people I observe using the bus use unlimited cards. On average, that reduces the fare to around a dollar per ride. The agency cannot make money for operations like that.

Additionally, New York State and New York City need to step up and contribute to the MTA; the MTA system is the lifeblood of the city and deserves adequate funding for operations AND capital improvements.

I’ll keep an eye out for other changes coming down the pipe. This is definitely an interesting development going forward in transportation financing and operations.

Are you in NYC? Have you been affected by the service cuts?


Choose your own fares!

After reading about a taxi service in Vermont that allows riders to choose their own fare, I began thinking – what would people pay if they could choose their own fare on the local bus, subway or commuter rail?

the honor system
Creative Commons License photo credit: conbon33

I know I would continue paying the same fares as before. Nothing would change for me. But what about instances where you had no starting point for what the fare should be? How would people decide what was equitable, given that they had to pay something (no free rides)?

Any thoughts?

Why Ca$h for Clunkers won’t work

It’s the economy, stupid!

The economy is not in full recovery mode, yet, so we can’t expect Cash for Clunkers – the government program to provide up to $4500 off the purchase of a new car if it is more fuel efficient than the old car – to work the way it was designed. Frankly, how many people do YOU know are going out and buying new cars in these uncertain economic times?


The program is funded for $1 billion dollars – which could help a transit agency upgrade its equiptment, close a budget gap and prevent fare hikes, or ensure preventative maintenance continues on rail lines or buses. I’d rather see the federal government begin funding sustainable, more economical transit than keep throwing money behind Detroit, which seems bent on producing cars with dismal gas mileage, instead of buses, light rail vehicles or train cars. I’m not anti-car at all, but instead looking at the bigger picture. Oil will not last forever, and we have not made significant inroads in alternative fuels to be used mass-market – so we need to get back to what we know will work in the meantime – public transportation and alternative modes of transportation.

Perhaps it will take a partnership between a transit agency and a big 3 automaker to make some major changes in how transportation is funded and thought of in America, so in the meantime, I will be waiting and watching the success (or failure) of the Cash for Clunkers program, which runs from July 1 to November 1, 2009.

6 Fare Policy Suggestions

  1. Introduce a Smart Card that works with multiple transit services.
  2. Create bus and schedules that make it clear to riders where the fare zones change, if you are going to work with a zone-based fare system.
  3. Make fare exceptions for people riding from a stop immediately on one side of a fare zone to a stop immediately after the fare zone change.
  4. Speed up bus loading by ending collecting cash fares on the buses; use Smart Cards or Transit Cards.
  5. Make it easier to purchase monthly or weekly fare cards at machines by using more intuitive menus and quick shortcuts to purchasing discounted fare cards.
  6. Create and promote purchase of quarterly, semi-annual and annual bus/rail passes

10 Tips to Survive the Recession – Transport Style

Man commuting to work via bicycle in Amsterdam

The economy sucks. Whether you are in the US or the UK, you are trying to find ways to save a few dollars and lessen the sting of the recession. Here are my 10 tips to survive the recession – transport style.

  1. Invite your friends over to hang out. You don’t drive, so you save on gas and the frustration of traffic. Better yet, suggest they carpool on their way over.
  2. Dump the gym membership and walk or bicycle to/from local stores. You’ll still get plenty of exercise and you’ll be doing your part to keep a car off of the road.
  3. Don’t drive to the carwash. Instead, stay at home and do it yourself. You’ll get your heart pumping and have a sense of accomplishment once you are done.
  4. Find out how to commute from your home to your office using public transit. Even if you have to drive a few miles to a park and ride, you’ll have a less stressful commute and save money on gas and car maintenance.
  5. Buy monthly passes for transit. Paying the regular base fair will quickly add up. Instead, get a monthly pass, which is usually at a significant discount, and see the savings add up.
  6. Call your insurance company and let them know that you are using public transit or carpooling more, and see if you can get a discount on your auto insurance.
  7. Similarly, let your human resources department know that you are looking into transit alternatives. See if they offer free or discounted transit passes, parking passes or other benefits for using alternative means to get to work.
  8. If you must drive to run errands, see if neighbors would like to carpool and combine trips. You’ll save gas and build a friendship or two.
  9. Find out about low-cost bus carriers between major cities. Instead of driving from DC to NYC, why not try BoltBus for $5 each way?
  10. Ask your employer about working from home 2-3 days a week. Combined with using public transit on the days you go into the office, you’ll see your transportation costs drop dramatically.

Bank of America offering Transit Rebates through January 31, 2009

For every $100 you spend in qualifying purchases on New York area transit from now until January 31, 2009 you will earn $10 cash back from Bank of America.

NYC area transit includes:

  • NYC Subway & Buses
  • Staten Island Railroad & Ferry
  • Long Island Railroad & Bus
  • Metro-North Railroad
  • Port Authority of NY/NJ
  • Independent Ferries
  • Bridge & Tunnel Tolls
  • EZ Pass (if you use your Bank of America┬« Visa┬« credit or check card to replenish).

Visit for more details and to sign up.