Looking at Issues Through Objects

All around the world, accessibility is a problem that varies in its detrimentality. For some, access is just a problem of commuting from home to work, but for others, access become a huge issue when it deals with basic human needs such as clean water, healthy food, or a warm and safe environment to live in. In this country, we’ve become developed to the point where a lot of what we need or want is provided to us through a button on our phones, but we haven’t always been this way. As a constantly evolving nation, we’ve worked our way up in all aspects of living, but there are still those who still have trouble with access to places like work, school, home, etc. People may not have access to cars, so they had to use other methods of getting to where they needed to go. This is where the MTA came into play with buses and subways available to the public, and with them came the MetroCard. The first subways came out in 1904, and following it all the way in 1993 came the first MetroCards. These came out as a huge convenience to those who had to commute everyday. The MetroCard had a large effect on the people on New York, and I wanted to see just how big that effect was.

I started with this exploration by researching how the pricing worked and what it’s effects were on the people. I asked questions like who or what determines the fare prices, what may cause an increase in fare, if there was a connection between the base fare of a single ride and the number of annual MTA users, and if an increase in price would stop people from using the MTA. Because access is a personalized problem, I wanted to see how or if people reacted to price changes. My research runs from 2010 up till the end of 2015 and records the evolution of the base fare and tracks the number of yearly MTA users. I saw that there were two price increases in the past few years, one from $2.25 to 2.50 in March 2013, and then again from $2.50 to $2.75 in March 2015. I then researched I then searched for the number of yearly MTA users. I found that from 2010-2015, the number of MTA went up from 1.6 billion to 1.7 billion. So after inputting the two sets of information into a graph and analyzing it, I could see that both the MTA fare and the number of MTA users slowly went up. I wasn’t really expecting the yearly number of people to decrease, but I did want to see if there was a change in users every time there was a change in price. I expected some sort of pause in the number of people every time the price went up, but there wasn’t anything like that. I came to the conclusion that people need to get to work no matter the price and that they’ll continue to pay for it because it’s easy access. They’re comfortable with the system and due to the subways reliability, commuting has integrated into the daily routine of basically everyone in New York City and its surrounding boroughs.

With a few more questions left unanswered, I went to Penn Station to interview an MTA employee about pricing. I went to Customer Service and found an LIRR employee who I could talk to. Though she spoke to me about LIRR pricing, it works very similarly to MetroCard pricing. I asked her who or what determines the fare prices, what can cause the prices to rise, if there are concerns that if prices go too high then people will stop using the trains, whether she sees prices going up or down in the future, and what would happen if the number of people decreased. She started out by talking about the process of pricing. She explained that prices may need to go up if the MTA needs funding for things like construction or maintenance. In order to raise the price, a board on the MTA must write up a proposal and send it to Town Hall for a vote. She even mentioned that prices will most probably be going up in the next month or so. She then went on to talk about the relationship between prices and customers. She explained how people need to get to work, so they put up with the prices because the trains are convenient. Ridership is definitely a concern for the MTA, but it has actually been increasing, so she wasn’t sure if there was a specific plan in place in case it did decrease. Connecting it back to access, the interview proved once again that people will do what they have to do for the convenience that the MTA provides them with.

To conclude, I believe that access is a problem that we as people deal with everyday. Some people deal with it in a more severe aspect due to tough living conditions, while others deal with it in a more basic, everyday sense. Personally, I deal with access as a problem myself when it comes to commuting because it’s something I face everyday coming from Long Island. The MetroCard is an object that very closely relates to access because it’s a form of commuting and it gives access to millions of people everyday. Money and and pricing very closely correlates with it because the MTA needs money to maintain the subways and tracks. As functioning parts of the system, the people don’t mind paying for their commute because of the ease that comes with it. The trains are reliable, safe, and hygienic, for the most part, and provide people with a service that they need and rely on. Even if prices go up, people don’t mind paying for it because they simply need it. More and more people will continue to use the MTA in order to gain this simple and easy access.

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