New Yorkers have the longest work week because they have the longest commutes. And with last week’s subway fare increase, they’re paying more than five dollars a day to commute to and from work. Cassandra Basler spoke to subway riders in the South Bronx. Some say they’re earning less, but traveling more.
[Fade up ambi: subway card swipe rat race]
It’s 5:30 AM at the 2/5 train stop on east 180th street near the Bronx Zoo. Just up the road is a public development called the Lambert Houses. Here… commuters decked out in khaki slacks, construction boots and white nursing sneakers are rushing to make the train to work on time.
[AMBI: Train coming in]
They’re facing a long trip.
ALVARADO: From my house, to the train, to my job. Probably an hour (0:05).
LOPEZ: About an hour. Down to Astor Place on the 6th train. (0:4)
JACKSON: It takes about an hour and 15.
That’s Herbert Alvarado, Jorge Lopez and Eugene Jackson. Their commutes are pretty typical…maybe even on the high side.
A recent city report says an average subway rider in the city… spends more than 7 hours traveling to work each week. Adam Forman is a researcher at the Center for Urban Futures, a policy group.
FORMAN: People live farther, farther reaches of the outer boroughs often are lower income. (0:03)
That means… a lot of people at the 180th street stop in the Bronx have some of the longest commutes… on the tightest budgets.
[Fade up 5 train ambi]
That’s Eugene Jackson’s train. He travels nearly an hour and a half to manage a Foot Locker in Brooklyn. And cost is a factor.
JACKSON: majority of times I get like 10 dollar metro cards.
But that’s more expensive. Like a lot of hourly-wage New Yorkers… Jackson has to spend more in the long run because he can’t pay $116.50 upfront for a Monthly Unlimited card.
With the increased fare…that gets him to Brooklyn and back every work day. But Jackson spends almost an entire hour’s wage on transportation. He’s really not that concerned about the fare hike… but he’d like the extra funds to go toward improving service and reducing delays.
JACKSON: There’s been some mornings im waiting for the train for 10, 15 minutes. But some mornings im waiting on the F train for I think it was 45 minutes.
[Fade up 5 train ambi]
Hector Alvarado catches the 5 train to a hospital in midtown Manhattan…where he works as an X-ray technician. He says he still appreciates the subway.
ALVARADO: I grew up in San Francisco. So comparing the fares to the way it is here in the city. We’re very spoiled because we get a lot for that $2.75. Whereas other places you pay per stop. So the fact that you can go from here to the end of the line for the same price, it’s actually pretty affordable. (0:26)
Alvarado says he’d live closer to work in midtown… if it fit into his budget.
ALVARADO: That would be ideal. Or even having parking either more affordable, more accessible. That way, driving in would be perfect. (0:08)
But since the weather’s warming up, he’s considering cheaper, faster means of transportation.
ALVARADO: I’m gonna start riding my bike… it cuts down the commute to 35 minutes. (0:05)
[Fade Up: Platform Ambi]
Jorge (HORE-hay) Lopez works at New York University caring for kids. He’s standing at the platform with his son Jonas, who’s ready to catch the train with his spiderman backpack.
JONAS: I go to school at P.S. 93.
At 37, Lopez says he’s been riding MTA since he was his son’s age.
LOPEZ: It’s 27, 30 years of frustration. You think things will get better but they charge us more and don’t increase anything for us (0:08)
He’s right. The fare hike won’t increase service…but will help pay salaries for MTA workers. Neither Mayor Bill de Blasio nor Governor Andrew Cuomo have put up enough money to close the MTA’s funding gap…or relieve the frustrations of these three commuters.
Cassandra Basler. Columbia Radio News.