Kill the subway fare hike with kindness

Worker’s Correspondence





BRONX, N.Y. – It all started when my family was visiting New York. They wanted to see all the sights: Times Square, Coney Island, the Staten Island Ferry, Chinatown; so we got them unlimited Metro passes. But, as we were leaving Chinatown headed to FAO Schwarz, we got stuck.

We went through one of those revolving cage door turnstiles, the kind that goes from head to foot to thwart would-be turnstile hurdlers. But as my uncle swiped his Metrocard, he hesitated, as many people do when approaching a revolving door, and let the cage door turn empty.

There we were: aunt, cousin and tour guide on one side of the bars, ready to catch the uptown train, and my uncle alone on the other side. Even though he had an unlimited-ride card, it would not work again for 17 minutes. A New Yorker, seeing our predicament, took out his unlimited card and handed it to my uncle, who swiped through.

It was then that I realized that this act of kindness could be expanded and spread everywhere. I began offering strangers a free pass as I exited the system for all the buses that never showed up, all the stuck trains and trains out of service, all the crowded, sweaty trains, all the transfers I never used because service was too slow.

As a Communist, I believe public transportation should be free since it contributes to the economy, reduces congestion and pollution. Subway and bus fares are really a hidden tax on working people. What makes this tax burden worse is that government often does not provide the funds for quality service. Since mass transit insures that workers are able to quickly and efficiently get to work, let the employers pay.

It wasn’t easy, at first, for New Yorkers to accept kindness from a stranger. They were wary, looking for my angle, then pleasantly surprised when there was no catch. Now, I’m an expert at sharing. At the end of the week, when my unlimited card is about to expire, I hand it to someone as I’m leaving.

But now the MTA is pushing to increase the fare to $2 per ride. This from a country that is giving huge tax breaks to the wealthiest and paying billions for war on Iraq. We must fight this tax on working people in every way, even killing the increase with kindness, until our subway system is free. Until then, New York might get the reputation of having the most considerate working-class in the world. Hey, under Communism anything is possible.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org