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Old Posted Mar 15, 2019, 8:56 PM
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What's The Perfect Price For Public Transportation?

What's The Perfect Price For Public Transportation?

MAR 14, 2019


Read More: https://www.citylab.com/transportati...ransit/584836/


If agencies don’t raise revenue, how can they fix their deteriorating service? In an age of ubiquitous ridesharing, cheap gas, and easy car loans, what is a bus or subway ride worth? According to a range of experts, there’s no such thing as a perfect transit fare. But striking a balance between what residents are able to pay, and how they do it can help get people riding again, rather than keep pushing them off.

- Unlimited cards offer the most intrinsic value to those with the least means, who have to map out weekly or monthly expenses, and rely on public transit more than any other demographic. But they’re also the people who are least likely to be able to afford them. — MTA’s new fares will disproportionately affect low-income riders who already inclined to take fewer trips per capita due to cost barriers. This lends importance to New York City’s Fair Fares program, a subsidy program that offers half-priced weekly and monthly MetroCards to qualifying low-income residents. It follows the lead of Seattle and Toronto, which have implemented similar programs and seen ridership grow. Fair Fares helps keep the subway accessible.

- Single-ride fares have historically never covered the entire cost of a trip for most transit agencies. (In New York City, fare revenue is 50 percent of the MTA’s operating budget.) No matter what, transit agencies are subsidizing at least some part of your ride, so pegging revenue solely to ridership is inevitably problematic. It can be a revenue stream, but it is rarely the only one. That is why monthly passes are so important to agencies: Having regular riders who pay a fixed price, even if they don’t take all the rides, allows for a larger pool of money than one-offs. — That’s why, when the MetroCard price increase was announced in New York, Yonah Freemark, a Ph.D student at MIT and transit analyst, tweeted that it was “hilariously terrible fare policy, the exact opposite of what transit systems should pursue.”

- But if monthly passes are so important both for agencies to reap revenue, and for customers to ride transit moreagencies have to first address how hard it can be to buy them, whatever their cost, said David Block-Schachter, the chief business officer of Transit, a real-time transit app, and former chief of technology for Boston’s MBTA. — In January, he wrote a Medium post on why pay-as-you-go contactless payments, where riders can use their phones or credit cards and never have to visit a vending machine again, could hurt the bottom line of transit agencies by making monthly fare deals less appealing. But in the end they are the right thing to do because they have the potential of improving customer convenience, and experience, Block-Schachter argued.

- He cited contactless systems in place in various cities Oyster in London, Ventra in Chicago, and the coming OMNY in New York as examples of platforms that could, in the long term, boost ridership by fixing an image problem. — “Fare systems need to get out of people’s ways, because that can increase the perception of trip speed and the actual way you take modes like buses, and even the subways,” Block-Schachter said in an interview. “Think about the election, when Hillary Clinton didn’t know how to use a MetroCard and swiped a bunch of times these are things that are actual perceptions of how long or archaic things are, and keep people away from using the systems.” Furthermore, he added, transit agencies must recognize that ridership may be contending with the reality that riders have more options than ever.

- Rather than fall behind the curve, Block-Schachter argues that agencies should see rides as part of a larger “ecosystem” of mobility products. Building monthly fare payments into a mobile platform that includes other services people are using that’s the “mobility as a service” (AKA “MAAS”) vision that thought leaders enjoy talking about could help agencies capture more revenue. — Helsinki may provide a roadmap to that future. The highest monthly price of its “Whim” mobile payment platform is €500, which pays for unlimited transit rides and car-share use. Most users are choosing the Whim Urban option, which is just €49 per month, and offers riders unlimited transit rides and discounted taxis. But a perfect fare means nothing if the service is sub-par.

- Cities may toy with the idea of making all public transit entirely free. But if the subway and buses don’t provide reliable service and are a misery to use, then it doesn’t really matter what the price is, experts say. Steven Higashide, the research director for TransitCenter, said that in his organization’s “Who’s on Board” 2019 study, which surveyed 1,700 riders in seven different American cities, New York transit users were the most likely to cite service flaws,crowding, delays, and disruptive commutes as an area in desperate need of improvement. — The conflict between equity and ridership where low-income straphangers are more adversely affected by fare prices, and therefore ride less is a huge problem, said Higashide.

- This, he continued, can be amended with a more robust fare subsidy program, and fare-capping, which has been done in London and Dublin, and now in the U.S. in Dallas and Portland. But what TransitCenter found is that New Yorkers cared about getting the most bang for their (increasingly high) buck. And right now, that doesn’t seem to be happening. “The quality of service matters, a lot,” he said. Other research shows that transit agencies can’t generally discount their way to ridership growth. — Higadishe pointed to a November 2018 study from the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, in British Columbia, which found that if the goal is to attract both transit-dependent and “discretionary” riders or residents who can also afford vehicle-based options then fare reductions or discounted passes are just one piece of the price sensitivity puzzle. Making the public service reliable, frequent, and reasonably pleasant are just as important.

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Old Posted Mar 15, 2019, 11:13 PM
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Gee... I wonder what would happen to ridership if the state invested what is necessary to bring the NYC subway system into the modern world..... I mean come one! If they would just bite the bullet and realize that the state's economic machine needs a modern rapid transit system, ridership would increase tremendously. Sure, there might be a need for a slight increase in fares, but does THIS increase actually contribute solidly to modernization? Of course it doesn't, it only maintains the status quo.
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