On Monday evening, the MTA held public hearings in the Bronx and Manhattan on fare hike proposals (PDF doc), one of which would raise the $2.50 base fare to $2.75. The transit agency, which is currently sitting on a $34.4 billion mountain of debt, seems to be in the habit of raising fares nearly every other year, and every time, New Yorkers complain. But the first public meeting to discuss the 2015 fare increases drew a crowd of only a two dozen or so — a pittance for a city of over 8 million.
I arrived at Baruch College’s Mason Hall just after 6PM to find that the angry mob I expected never materialized. But there was a lot of security. A twenty-something woman in front of me was having problems getting through a NYPD-manned checkpoint because of her cookies. “I promise not to open them,” she pleaded to a cop operating the walk-through metal detector. After some back and forth, he asked, without a hint of humor, “Lieutenant, are cookies good here?” His superior silently nodded and gave the cookies a pass.
Inside the vast auditorium, adorned by Illuminati style carvings, were only a handful of people. There were, however, lots of detectives in suits — at least six of them, maybe more. It seemed like a lot of idle security, but ever since 2008, when the hearings got very contentious and one guy even threatened to throw his shoe at a MTA bigwig, the NYPD has deployed a better-safe-than-sorry amount of officers for these type of events.
The city is prepared for the worst, because in these type of proceedings, anyone — and I mean anyone — who wants to comment is given three minutes at the podium to talk, sing or shout at board members or just attend and cheer. In return, the board members who show up must appear somewhat engaged, and resist fucking around on their smart phones, unlike those in the audience. The result is comical, almost pathetic, like a council meeting out of Parks and Recreation. One by one, New Yorkers voiced their opinions. Some brought up legitimate concerns — others not so much. “It’s so expensive as it is,” proclaimed a college student. “Please don’t raise it, that’s all I have to say.”
One woman went directly after the board members, most of whom were white and male. “When you guys start do better, when you guys actually get up two hours early to commute and leave your chauffered car and limousines and you can acknowledge and understand what the people are going through, then maybe, I’ll get up two early. Until then, it’s not going to happen.”
The most radical, passionate proposal of the otherwise mundane night came from a tall, slightly disheveled speaker. He suggested fining people, or even involving the police, for being rude. “When someone does that to somebody,” he said, “they should be thrown off the bus immediately.”
(Photos/Video: Bucky Turco/ANIMALNewYork)