Commuter fare hike

When I first settled in New York City, the single public transportation fare was $1.10. Today, it’s $2.25. More than 100% increase over the course of nearly 20 years. Adjusting for inflation, however, it comes to only about 32% over that time.

At the beginning of this month, New Jersey Transit effected a fare hike. 25% increase across the board, for trains and commuter buses. The monthly commuter bus pass from my zone that used to cost $259 now costs $324.

I can appreciate the fact that in these days of state budget holes and continuing economic duress, raising the public transportation fares is one way to lessen the state’s financial pains. I also cannot truly begrudge a fare increase after it has remained unchanged for a decade. After all, adjusting for inflation, $259 10 years ago happens to be the equivalent of roughly $320 today, which means the prices are just catching up to the inflation.


I work remotely often enough that the most advantageous fare for me was not the monthly commuter pass, but rather the 10-trip pack. On my route, it was offered at 33% discount to the single fare per each trip. More importantly, it was priced at a 25% premium to the single ride cost as calculated against the monthly pass cost (assuming 22 work-days in a month; the premium was considerably lower in, say, 19-day February). In other words, I had to work from home as few as 2 and never more than 6 days in any given month – depending on the actual number of work-days – to make the 10-trip option the cheapest for me.

I work out of my home office easily twice a week nowadays. My bus ticket cost hovered around $200 for the last six-seven months.

With the fare hike, the equation changed. The 10-trip pack is still available, but its cost was raised by whopping 60%. It is now offered at a mere 17.5% discount to the single fare per each trip (whose price has gone up by 25%). The premium over a single ride cost as calculated against the commuter pass for a 22-day month ended up at nearly 60% as well, which theoretically makes the monthly pass considerably more attractive – 14 days of commuting a month and I spend less with the pass than I’d spend with the 10-packs. But given that that’s right about the number of days I come to Manhattan in a given month, no matter whether I continue to buy 10-packs or switch to monthly passes, my new commuting expense will be about the same – 60% higher than it was before.

Ouch! My share of plugging the state’s financial hole seems a bit disproportional. The gradual increase of the NYC Subway fare over the years pales in comparison…