1975: N.Y. Fares Raised in Crisis by
Mayor Beame promised relief
for double-fare victims at the same time that he requested the higher
fare, asking for a 25c add-a-ride transfer between subways and bus lines,
and between those bus lines not now issuing transfers. Free transfers
would remain- on the lines already issuing them. The MTA agreed to the
bus-to-bus 25c transfer, but shelved the subway-bus break, saying that it
would require "more study."
The MTA has
threatened to raise the fare further, to 60 cents at the New Year, unless
additional funds are guaranteed by the city, state or federal
Politics and The Fare: From 5c to 50c in 27
Politics has long set the fare in New York City, and it
was politics with a vengeance that led to the new 50c
When New York committed itself to a
massive program of subway building, culminating in the "Dual Contracts" of
1913, it specified that the universal fare on each of the private systems
running the city-built subways would be no more than 5
The private operators, the Interborough
Rapid Transit Company and the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company agreed to
this fare (among other considerations) and in return, the City paid the
lion's share of the cost of building the new lines which were then leased
to the IRT and BRT (later BMT) for operation.
The nickel fare remained an article of faith in New York politics
throughout the years of private operation, even as other cities raised
theirs. By 1924, for example, the fare had gone as high as 8c in
Philadelphia and Kansas City; to 9c in Cincinnati; and to a dime in
Boston, Pittsburgh and Seattle; in more than 500 U.S. cities, the fare
exceeded New York's nickel.
The 5c fare helped
bankrupt the IRT during the Depression. The City refused IRT pleas for an
increase to a 7c token fare, and that system was never again
The scrappier BMT managed to show a
modest profit on the 5c fare right to the end in 1940, but the City's
intransigence in raising it was a factor in the BMT's unwilling
The City continued the 5c fare for eight
more years. In 1948, the sanctity of the fare, which helped drive two
operators into the City's hands, was broken, as it jumped to a dime. The
impact was eased somewhat by the institution of various new subway and
surface transfer privileges.
The inter-modal transfers had been gradually phased out by 1953, when the
15c fare went into effect. With the 15c fare came the provision that
operations must be paid for "from the farebox," a theory of transit
with far-reaching effects which led, among other things, to a program of
deferred maintenance which, with other devices, held the fare stable for 13 years, but
at great damage to the system's physical plant. Robert Caro, in
his Robert Moses biography, "The Power Broker," said of the subways during
that period: "So superbly engineered and maintained had the system been
previously that it took years for this systematic neglect to take its toll....
By the late 1960's the day of full reckoning had
After John Lindsay became mayor in January,
1966, the fare began climbing again. The new mayor was opposed to
continued increases but was helpless to find funding methods to stop them.
Like other New York mayors, he could influence the fare, but could not set
The Transit Authority's budget was not,
and still is not, a part of the City's budget. The NYCTA had the power by
law to set the fare, and with Mr. Lindsay's acquiescence, raised it by
increments from 15c to 35c during his term of office.
Continued on page 3
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