Ride the Subway for Free?


Stop the presses!  There’s actual talk of making the subway FREE to ride.  I know, it makes me a little nauseous too. 

Theodore Kheel donated $100,000 to the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility to fund a study about making the subway free to ride.  Kheel believes that it can be done. 

Hold on to your seats because here comes the scary logic:

If New Yorkers don’t pay a fee to use the police and fire departments, they should not have to pay to use the city’s mass transit system.

Ok, that makes sense.  SUBWAYblogger can get behind that.  It just really freaks us out to think of all the people getting on the train for free, that’s all.  People overload.  All of a sudden, our subway will look like the Tokyo subway.  We’ll have to hire the little men with white gloves to stuff people into the trains!

At this point, it is just a study.  Kheel believes that the whole thing could be funded by charging drivers to drive on the busiest streets of the city.  All that revenue would offset the subway costs.

It certainly would have a lot of revenue to generate.  What few people don’t realize is that the hundreds of millions in subway fares collected each year hardly gets put back into the system.  Much of the revenue generated today goes to fund other city projects.  That’s part of the reason the city suffered the TWU strike.  The money that could have paid for wages and benefits was essentially already tied up in funding other city projects.

The fact is that the transit system is quite the nest egg for the city.  Getting rid of that gold paved money road would cause quite the uproar.  So the city street car tolls will have to really make up the missing cash.

Ok, my head hurts. 

10 thoughts on “Ride the Subway for Free?

  1. Wait. Wait just one damn minute.

    After all this time of hearing arguments that the subways are falling apart because they don’t have adequate funding and hearing that millions of dollars in repairs are needed and that the MTA is making oodles of money in real-estate deals and that signal lights failing is the reason I had to take the local all the way home instead of the express… now you’re telling me that they don’t use my fare money for the damn subways?! How much more backwards can this get? Don’t make the trains free, make them good! Take the money and put it back into the system! Fix signal lights! Install 20th century equipment! Fire all those over-paid lazy union workers and hire people who have to work in order to earn their pay-check!

    … and now you have made my head hurt.


  2. Well, in fairness, I guess I should be more specific. The surpluses are pretty much spent. That was one of the alleged holdup during the MTA strike.

    The TWU kept citing how the MTA had millions in surpluses, so why not kick that back in the form of healthcare. Unfortunately, hundreds of billions don’t just sit around. The money gets spent around town. So it’s not like the MTA just gets to sit on that money.



  3. i’m not sure where you got the idea that “the hundreds of millions in subway fares collected each year hardly gets put back into the system.” not only does it get put directly back into the system, in fact it covers less than 50% of the system’s operating costs! true, some of that operating budget is used to pay off the interest on the MTA’s massive debt, but they’re in debt because they’ve been spent the past 25 years rebuilding the system. To say that “Much of the revenue generated today goes to fund other city projects” is simply untrue.


  4. The dollars don’t go back in to the system in terms of making improvements. Much of the money goes into paying of old debt and huge amounts of interest. Interest on billions in debt tends to add up!

    And yes, you are right that fares alone dont cover the operating cost. The fact is that the MTA gets the bulk of it’s money from the city’s propert taxes. However, fares make up the bulk of true “income” so to speak generated soley by the MTA.

    So when property tax revenue skyrockets and the MTA ends up with way more revenue than they expected, it’s no like they get to keep all that to spend on fixing signal lights, etc. IF they keep it, it goes again to the debt. Otherwise, much of that money gets “tied up” back into the city.


  5. People forget that at various levels, tax money subsidizes all forms of transportation. Aviation requires Air Traffic Controllers, but that cost doesn’t come out of your ticket fare, its paid by income taxes. The fact is, we subsidize car travel with federal funded roads, we subsidize air travel….and all these things we make artificially cheap are actually terrible for the environment, and very bad ideas.

    Either make it all, user pays….or make it all free. In that sense making the subway free has a lot of merit.

    It’s not really the opposite position to say, make everyone pay the true costs…that also has the same impact, i.e. the artificial support of environment destroying transportation also disappears…..in the end mass transit wins.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s