Faring Well

Wealthier transit riders demand more expensive rail services and commute at peak hours; the poor commute using all modes, at all hours. Eric A. Morris argues that the MTA's new policy of off-peak pricing would help even out the inequity.

"In pretty much every respect, the trips of the wealthier impose heavier costs on the system than the trips of the poor."

"This is why it was with considerable happiness that Professor Brian Taylor and I read this article announcing that the New York MTA is considering cutting fares during off-peak times. "

"This policy would be progressive in that it would benefit poorer riders who disproportionately travel at off-peak times. It would also be equitable in that it would reflect the lower costs those riders impose on the system."

Thanks to Franny Ritchie

Full Story: Fare's Fair?



Michael Rodriguez's picture

transit pricing presumptions - be careful

We need to be careful when making certain presumptions across the board, and individual systems need to understand their individual riders. It may be the fact that, nationwide, there is a correlation between distance and income. I agree.

However, we can't assume this for every line and every system. Even in NYC, the different modes reflect different incomes. Metro North riders coming from the Hudson Valley are likely to have higher incomes than subway and bus riders.

But does the distance-income correlation hold for the NYC Subway as a mode? Well, consider a wealthy Upper-East side Wall Street broker taking the 4-Train down to Wall Street. This is a short commute (8-miles by car, much shorter in subway-distance).

On the other hand, you can have a working class commuter from Far Rockaway, out in Brooklyn, taking the A-train into Manhattan to work (about 18-miles). In fact, residents of the outlying Burroughs have more modest incomes than Manhattan residents. High prices in the CBD have priced middle-class people out of Manhattan into far parts of the Burroughs.

What this means is that, as a mode, the NYC subway may show an inverse distance-income relationship, at least for work-based trips. At a minimum, I don't think we can presume that those living further out make more - at least subway riders, not Metro North riders (or LIRR).

It might be regressive to charge those taking longer subway commutes higher fares - at least on a pure income-equity standard and a goal of progressiveness.

While I love variable pricing and using pricing as a market signal to fill transit, we need to be careful about presumptions. Each city, each line, and each constituency is going to be different. Some may follow this pattern, some may not. We can't take a national statistic and use it for an individual system.

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