Commuters unhappy with upcoming MTA hikes

Many St. John’s commuter students say they are worried about the MTA’s recently approved fare hikes. The price increases, which will go into effect May 31, will cause bus and subway fares to increase from $2 to $2.50. The price of monthly MetroCards will also increase from $81 to $103.

“The fare hike makes no sense to me,” said junior Leanda Taitt, a commuter student from Brooklyn. “The monthly card is increasing by $22 and for many of us college students, that’s like food. The increase is just too much.”

The monthly MetroCard fare change is one of many changes the MTA voted on during last Wednesday’s final transit meeting. Their decision brings an end to the debate over how to handle the $1.2 billion budget deficit faced by the MTA. The MTA will change the one-day unlimited MetroCard from $7.50 to $9.50. A seven-day unlimited MetroCard will go from $25 to $31 and a 14-day unlimited MetroCard will go from $45 to $59. Cash tolls on major bridges and tunnels, as well as the LIRR, will also face increases.

Thirty-five bus routes will be eliminated, along with the W and Z subway lines. In addition, off-peak service will be reduced on subways, buses, and commuter rail lines, with many bus routes to be cancelled on weekends. The MTA also plans to lay off more than 1,000 transit employees in the next several months.

“I think it’s ludicrous that we will be paying more for less service, being that the train and bus lines will be cut,” said Nadia McDowell, a resident student who lives off campus and rides the bus and subway everyday.

“Plus, the train is often filthy and trashed; sometimes you can’t even fit on the train because it’s so packed with people. Now they want to raise fares with no improvements to the already horrible service. It’s mind boggling.”

Rich Martinez, a St. John’s television center engineer, said he has not found anyone excited about the upcoming hikes.

“There is definitely a feeling of overall unhappiness about the MTA hike,” he said. “I mean cutting service, raising prices, where is the sense in that? The worst is that everyday you hear about another business that mismanaged their money and are suffering. It makes me wonder what exactly the MTA has been doing with our money and if this increase could have been avoided.”

Many students said they are going to try to cut back on spending and save as much as possible when the fare increases take effect.

For McDowell, this means re-evaluating her spending habits and possibly leaving her job in Manhattan and trying to find something closer to Queens.

“I will definitely cut back on trips to hang out in the city with friends, limiting myself to just once a week or maybe not at all,” she said. “I think we all really have to start budgeting our money because many of us, including myself, have to choose between a meal or a MetroCard, and for me I’ll choose the meal.”

Some students said they hope St. John’s will offer some aid to the thousands of commuters who shuffle back and forth everyday on public transit.

“I would like to see St. John’s really try to help out commuters,” said Kevin Coltrinari, who commutes on the subway from Western Queens everyday. “Maybe they can give a commuter credit towards tuition or something along those lines. Anything to help us out would be good.”

Another student suggested taking the shuttle service offered by St. John’s more frequently into Manhattan to save money.

Annie Poon, a senior and commuter said, “The fare increase is unfair, but there is nothing we can do about it. I say we print out a shuttle schedule and just ride the free shuttle to the city.”

Although St. John’s has no plans developed to ease the financial burden faced by both commuter and resident students, Dr. Jose Rodriguez, vice president of Student Affairs and dean of students in Student Life, said they would like to help if they can.

“The situation is so recent that we are really just learning about all the changes ourselves. We started preliminary discussions with the MTA about possible discounts for students just last week, but we don’t know anything yet,” he said.

“Right now we are just trying to learn everything we can. But we understand the impact and hardship this will cause on everybody. We are still trying to see what can be done.”