Perspective on Fare Increases: Redux
According to most MARTA nay sayers, on October 2nd, babies would starve to death, people wouldn’t be able to afford to go to their jobs, and as a whole, the city of Atlanta would self implode from the MARTA fare increase. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but if you read any of the comments floating around all of the internets you would think that would be the case. In fact, according to most of these people it seems as if they have never had a price increase on anything they use or buy. Price increases suck, and I am not here to argue that, but for god’s sake show a bit of intelligence when attempting to argue the point, or at least learn how to spell. Seriously people its fare, not fair. FARE!
Regardless, the aftermath of the fare increase has brought out some not so intelligent analysis and comparisons. A lot of the outrage and lack of understanding probably comes from news tactics such as this. Funny, that “Amongst Highest in the Nation” headline, didn’t go up when CCT raised their fares equal to that of MARTA’s for bus only service. But then I remember that the AJC doesn’t actually practice journalism.
Moving on. So there seems to be certain complaints that I keep reading online. The first is how the fare went up, but the service didn’t improve (more routes, 24 hours, more frequent trains). So when gas went to $4.00 a gallon did the same people expect the fuel to be better? Did they expect their car to run more smoothly and efficiently if they paid more for gas? Coca Cola recently raised the cost of their beverage. Did those same people get on Facebook and other internet pages and throw a fit because the taste didn’t improve? My electrical bill has never been as high as it has been using Georgia Power when compared to other states I have lived in. Should I expect my lights to work better, and the overall quality of my electricity to be better? Groceries have been on a steady rise for years. Has the milk and bread improved in flavor and freshness? The answer to all of those is no. So why would it be different for MARTA? If you are going to expend such energy to complain about MARTA’s fare increase then you should do the same to Coke, Netflix, BP, Publix, Verizon, Comcast, and all the other companies who have raised rates this year. But then again I am sure the We Only Print Bad News About Atlanta Journal Constitution probably didn’t give much attention to those increases. Furthermore, if you want to complain about how MARTA doesn’t serve the other counties around Atlanta so you dont get your money’s worth, I would suggest finding their websites, and their Facebook pages and complain to them, as they are the ones not allowing MARTA to come in.
Second order of business. MARTA is not the only authority to raise their fares. While the AJC likes to point out that it is amongst highest in the nation, they always seem to leave out the part how they are also one of the busiest systems in the nation. Of the 10 largest transit systems in the country (MARTA being one of them) 7 of them have cut service in the past year and 5 have raised fares. Overall 79% of transit agencies in the country have either cut service or raised fares; or are currently considering doing so. That number alone should be proof that it isn’t MARTA gouging for larger profits, but it’s a nationwide issue. Sales tax revenues are down for everyone, a large contributor to transit funding. We are in a recession, so less people are buying things. That equals less sales tax funding for transit. The gap has to be closed somewhere, so until someone can provide a viable alternative that 79% of the transit agencies can use, baseless whining gets nowhere. Compound on top of that, MARTA gets relatively no supporting state funding that the rest of the systems do, making their attempts at a balanced budget even more difficult. That is where you should direct your frustrated energy; to your state leaders who rob MARTA of potential funding that would help prevent fare increases. A little dated, but I think this OpEd explains it pretty well.
Lastly, it is true that low income citizens use transit, and adding another burden, whether 50 cents or 50 dollars is not beneficial, and only the most insensitive people would be unsympathetic to that. But if you want to use your cell phone’s data service to post a complaint on Facebook about how you are too poor to afford a 50 cent per trip increase and will get a car instead; don’t. If an increase of 50 cents per trip or 20 some dollars for a monthly breaks your bank, then you probably shouldn’t be paying for a data plan on your cell phone, and you certainly can’t afford the true cost of an automobile. Regardless of how it is done, whether by car or mass transit, transportation is a necessity, updating your status via a $20-$30 a month data plan is not.