City Hall subway station, NYC Urbanism.

City Hall subway station, NYC Urbanism.

Should public transit in NYC be free? This week Councilmember Mark Treyger introduced a resolution calling for Free Fares for the subway and bus.

The proposal is a response to the increased policing of fare evaders by the NYPD over past months. 

"In a budget of $180 billion, no one should go to jail over $2.75 just like no one goes to jail for skipping an EZ Pass toll.” Treyger stated in a press statement.

Each arrest for fare evasion has a major impact on the city,  from the cost of performing and processing the arrest to the missed time from work or school, childcare issues and the longterm reality of having a conviction or warrant from not dealing with it on time. Fair Fares, a recent initiative by the city provides half-priced MetroCards to New Yorkers below the poverty level, but some say it does not go far enough.

Free transit is not completely new to the city - New York City 100% subsidizes public transit from the only majority-white Borough to Downtown Manhattan – the Staten Island Ferry.

One important thing to call attention to is that the $2.75 MetroCard fare is already partially subsidized. Without subsidies the subway would cost $1.05 more, making a Metrocard swipe cost $3.80. This is much less than the subsidies for the NYC Ferry ($10.73 per passenger), the Long Island Rail Road ($6.07), the bus ($4.92) and the express bus ($6.50).

Opponents of the plan point to the financial crisis the MTA is facing, with fares making up 38% of the agency's revenue. Additionally, riders who don't pay their fare disrupts the ridership assessment, leading to less investment when ridership numbers are down.