Students relying on discounted express bus fares have been told to take a hike by the MTA, after the agency declined to continue its policy of half-priced student fares on premium service.
School-bound travelers heading to Manhattan high schools on an express bus will have to pay the full fare, an MTA spokesman said.
MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said this is because the bus lines, which had once been operated by private companies, have been absorbed into the MTA’s bus operations, which does not offer half-priced service on its express bus lines.
“This change is meant to bring the bus’s fare policy in line with MTA policy,” Donovan stated.
The result is an increase in the price of express bus fares for students attending Manhattan high schools. Instead of the old fare of $2.50, this year students will pay $5.50 per trip. Over a typical 36-week school year, this translates into a $1,980 increase in transportation expenses per child.
“This is typical of the MTA,” said Councilman Jimmy Vacca. “Rather than extending student fares to the rest of their express buses, their idea of standardizing service is to take away a discount that has helped countless middle-class families send their children to some of the best schools in the city.”
A letter sent to the MTA on August 12 from elected officials urged the MTA to reconsider its position on student fares. Congressman Joe Crowley, Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, and Councilman Jimmy Vacca signed the letter.
“When the MTA took over our private bus lines, riders were anxious because they weren’t sure the MTA understood how much of a lifeline these buses are to our neighborhood,” Vacca said. “Now we know the riders were right.”
Throggs Neck parent Jeff Levine said that the MTA is forcing him to shell out extra money as he sends his two daughters off to St. Vincent Ferrer High School on the upper east side. But it is not just the money, he said at a recent press conference on the subject, but the hardship his children would experience if they did not take an express bus.
“The damage is twofold,” Levine said. “For students who have worked hard to get into good schools in Manhattan, taking the bus and subway would add an extra hour to their commute each day, forcing them to wake up earlier and, during winter months, ride the trains and busses in the dark. The alternative is for parents to take on an even greater financial burden at a time when our budgets are already strained.”