Originally published in Issue 16 - December 1, 1997
A number of factors have come together to give the New York City Transit Authority a surplus of $129 million-and counting-for the authority's fiscal year that ends December 31st. The surplus can be attributed to the following: $48 million excess in dedicated tax revenues, $43 million in year-to-date underspending, and $38 million above expected passenger revenues. The surplus passenger revenues are largely due to the increased ridership that followed implementation of the Metrocard free transfer option in July of this year. It is unclear if the ridership gains will continue in the future, but the initial positive results of free transfers and plans for additional fare discount options in the future seem to bode well for future ridership and revenues.
While NYC Transit had already planned to offer a bulk fare discount beginning in January (11 rides for the price of 10), it is now under pressure to consider either a bigger bulk discount or another type of fare discount strategy. Some transit watchers are concerned that the surplus will be lost to reduced state and city subsidies unless the MTA board decides soon how to spend the money. Discount fare options include a bulk discount of 12 rides for the price of 10; peak/off-peak pricing, which would likely involve lowering the fare during non-rush hours; a monthly or weekly transit pass that could be used for unlimited rides; and some kind of family discount, such as allowing children accompanied by adults to ride free on weekends or other off-hours. NYC Transit could consider other possibilities as well, including using the money to restore service that has been cut in the last few years, investing in capital expenditures, or retiring some debt ahead of schedule. Stay tuned for more details.