Thursday, October 22, 2009

MTA Chief Floats Off-Peak Pricing

The MTA has been awful in figuring out its budgetary needs for decades. It has regularly needed infusion of funds from the state to operate annually, let alone manage its capital plan. Yet, new MTA chief Jay Walder is floating an idea of providing off-peak pricing discounts for nights and weekends to spur commuters to use the system more.

The problem comes down to money. While it might save some commuters money, in the end it will cost everyone far more since nights and weekends cost more to the MTA in terms of overtime while service reductions on nights and weekends allows the system that operates 24/7/365 to engage in regular maintenance.

Walder has to explain where the money is going to come from to support his proposal. He has to get costs under control, meaning that the TWU has to start realizing productivity gains and reduced gold-plated benefits.
Jay Walder, who took the helm of the agency two weeks ago, already said he intends to implement a no-swipe fare-payment system similar to the one he ushered in when he ran London's transit system.

Walder has said that the new smart card -- which could be in place in 2014 -- would calculate the cheapest fare for straphangers based on how much they ride, similar to London's Oyster card.

He is open to the new system providing discounts at night and on weekends, when fewer people are riding the rails and buses, the officials said.

Walder hasn't officially solidified a plan for the discounts, but indicated that he would consider the idea, according to a source.

The MTA chief recently told The Post that the new card could double as a debit card, indicating that fares would be deducted directly from bank accounts.
PATH already has a SMARTcard that allows commuters to pay fares without swiping through a mechanical reader. It would seem a natural fit for the MTA to adopt the PATH system, if that would indeed speed access to the buses and subways (and on that point, I'm not entirely sure that's the case as I've found the SMARTcard readers sometimes malfunction and find that my personal card doesn't work at one turnstile while another has no problem whatsoever.

The Daily News reports that the MTA and Walder are trying to walk back from the idea that Walder floated off-peak pricing for the subways and buses.

The Daily News also notes that it will be years before the MTA institutes a replacement to the MetroCard system.

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