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Riders Alliance Takes a Hike to Protest Subway Fare Increase

They took a hike to protest the hike.

Members of the transit advocacy group Riders Alliance came to Bay Ridge on Sun., Dec. 9 and took a hike from the 86th Street R train station to the 77th Street station to protest a proposal by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to increase subway and bus fares in 2019.

“As a Medicaid recipient, my income is limited, and this fare increase would make it difficult for me to survive. If the fares continue to rise, while able-bodied people will be able to walk or ride a bike, I will be left without an affordable and accessible transportation system, and no way to get around this city where I have lived for 14 years,” Riders Alliance member Elizabeth Melas of Gravesend said in a statement.

The MTA announced last month that it is considering raising transit fares. The agency is currently holding a series of public hearings to gather feedback from New Yorkers.

Under one proposal, the base fare would remain at $2.75, but the bonus that riders get when they purchase a Metrocard with multiple rides would be eliminated. Under a second proposal, the base fare would increase to $3 and a 10 percent bonus would be given to riders who put $6 or more on their Metrocards.

The MTA is looking at raising the price of Seven-Day Unlimited Ride Metrocards from $32 to $33. The agency is mulling two proposals on 30-Day Unlimited Ride Metrocards, which currently cost $121. Under one plan, riders would pay $127, while a second proposal would increase the cost to $126.25.

The demonstrators said they were also protesting rotten service on the R subway line.

As they walked along Fourth Avenue from 86th Street nine blocks north to 77th Street, protesters carried signs reading, “Don’t make my commute harder” and “UnReliable,” depicting the letter R in a yellow circle similar to the familiar logo of the R subway line.

Using statistics from the MTA, the Riders Alliance claimed the on-time performance level of the R subway line has drastically decreased from 10 years ago, when it was an impressive 90 percent. In October, only 48 percent of R trains reached their terminals on time. 

During Sunday’s protest, the Riders Alliance renewed its call for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature to begin congestion pricing in Manhattan.

Under congestion pricing, motorists would be charged a fee to drive into Manhattan below 96th Street. The money would be used to make subway system repairs.

Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Coney Island, attended the protest.

“I am promising today to use the full weight of my office and my seat in the New York State legislature to fight for fully funding the MTA repairs that we need. When we talk about fare hikes, I am always amazed that we are not thinking about the people on whose backs this would be hurting. That is to say the poor and working class, they are actually the people who are getting up early in the morning to make our city run,” Frontus said.

MTA spokesperson Shams Tarek said NYC Transit, which is part of the MTA, has made progress in improving subway service.

“NYC Transit is working tirelessly to improve service – as evidenced by improved performance in recent months thanks to the Subway Action Plan, which provided additional resources following the governor’s declaration of a subway state of emergency, and recent initiatives led by President Andy Byford,” Tarek told this newspaper via email.

Tarek also noted that Cuomo has stated his support for congestion pricing.

“We welcome the governor’s strong support of congestion pricing. Funding NYC Transit’s long-term capital needs will require city, state and federal streams of sustainable, reliable funding,” Tarek wrote.

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