New York subway riders swipe back at fare hikes
Today, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority boosted subway and bus fares by another quarter, making it $2.50 per ride in the Big Apple (which is about equivalent to four actual apples).
In response to the hikes, some citizens are taking matters and MetroCards into their own hands with a “Swipe Back!” campaign. It’s simple enough: 18 minutes after you use your unlimited card (which now costs $30 per week or $112 per month), you can swipe someone else in for a ride. Says Swipe Back!: “Since you’re giving the swipe away, not selling it, this is perfectly legal.”
The MTA tells Gothamist that fares are up to compensate for “costs for employee healthcare, pension contributions, mandatory paratransit service, energy and other costs out of our control.” No mention of a shit-ton of debt service. Here’s journalist and activist Jesse Myerson to explain how those debts work:
I asked Myerson how a small-scale campaign like Swipe Back! can make a difference.
“It helps out people who can’t afford a too-expensive public transit system. More importantly, though, it hopes to create a united community of riders, which is a crucial prerequisite for engineering the type of mass mobilization that can secure concessions from those in power,” said Myerson. “[Swipe Back!] is therefore a small but important part of the larger strategy to resist transit austerity, which, in turn, is a small but important part of the even larger strategy to liberate public projects of massive social benefit from the extractive clutch of finance capital.”
Sarah Goodyear at the Atlantic Cities looks at the Swipe Back! campaign and the history of similar initiatives:
This isn’t the first time the free swipes have been used to raise awareness among the harried riders of the city’s transit system, which carries seven million passengers every day. A group called the People’s Transportation Program offered free rides during a previous round of fare hikes in 2009, with very few people taking notice (except, of course, the lucky ones who benefited directly).
It’s hard not to notice the rising costs of daily needs, though, at least for those of us not lounging in the 1 percent. The No Fare Hikes initiative has a breakdown of ridership and costs throughout the subway system compared to neighborhood incomes. Sure, it’s just a quarter — for now — but those quarters can really add up.