Oh, MTA….

Apparently, we’re looking at rate hikes again.

From what I gather, this means that the service does not change, which honestly blows. The last MTA fare hike was accompanied by a cutback in service that made rush hour in NYC more of the special brand of hell than it already was. To say I’m cheesed off at this is an understatement. I already find it difficult to warrant paying $104 for a monthly MetroCard. $112 isn’t that much of an increase, but considering that it wasn’t that long ago that it was $89, I’m annoyed.

Seriously. That organization in NYC is not hurting for cash. I would love to be the person who audits their books. Seriously, I’d love to do that. Even as a freelancer, even for meager to no pay. Please, someone, send me the bookkeeping files for the Metropolitan Transit Authority so I can actually see where the money is going.

On one hand, I already know where it’s going: service restorations post-Sandy. It will take a ton of time and money to rebuild the Broad Channel rail bridge in Queens, and if we now have to hurricane-proof NYC subway, then guess what: that’s not free. I will never begrudge a union employee their money either; if not for unions, we’d still have perfectly legalized child labor. On the other hand, we get a rate hike every year, service has gone from passably reliable to crap, and the MTA’s new advertise-on-MetroCard campaign is projected to net them a nice and tidy sum in just the first fiscal quarter of 2013. Where is this money going?

Don’t mind me, I’m thinking like the accountant that I am.

Still, from a purely New Yorker perspective here, the service on the subway system is worse than when it still cost a buck-fifty to get on the subway. Now the fares are at two-fifty-to-be and the part that we’re waiting for is to see how the scheduling will be impacted. Sandy repairs aside – you gotta give the Sandhogs and the TWA employees their due; they got us up and running – every time that the price goes up, the schedule suffers, and considering that few people from the MTA board of directors even bother to attend the town hall meetings that are held to give the citizens their right to protest the hike, I can’t help but wonder what the other part of this equation is going to be.

Consider also this, ladies and gents: one of the scrapped proposed rate hikes for the MTA had the monthly unlimited MetroCard going to $240. It’s already enough of a dent in the wallet, and considering that a solid 95% of New Yorkers are on the subway on a fairly regular basis, you can definitely call it an essential service. And for some people, that could also be the amount of a weekly paycheck. So consider this: if the $240/monthly unlimited card were to be in effect, this would cripple a chunk of the city’s population. Contrary to stereotype and popular culture, there’s a massive chunk of New York residents who make under 40K and struggle to survive with even the so-called “cheap” cost-of-living areas of the city.

It’s very easy to say, “Leave New York”. Trust me, it is. But in reality, this is one of the best cities to find a job right now. It’s the small-biz capital of the world, and that capital is right now hiring left and right. Service personnel are an essential backbone to any medium-to-big business: offices need cleaning, lunch needs cooking and serving, documents need delivering. Just because people work menial/unskilled jobs doesn’t mean that those jobs in and of themselves don’t serve a purpose too. It’s just that those jobs pay a hell of a lot less than the jobs of the people who utilize these services, and the people who are in the service industry are the first line of people hit by changes in the city’s infrastructure, such as the transit rate hikes. Where an office employee might have the MetroCard provided by the office, someone who works at a restaurant waiting tables or as a messenger delivering documents may have to forgo eating for a week in order to get to work. And they’re not invisible, contrary to whatever line of thinking that Wall Street wigs carry.

I’m glad that, for now, the MTA monthly is staying semi-affordable, but I shudder to think where it may go in a few years.