Everyone knows New York is an expensive city. In fact, Mercer’s 2011 cost of living survey puts New York as the most expensive city in the United States. There are over 8 million people living in Manhattan and its surrounding boroughs. With this country’s economic climate, Mayor Bloomberg has a considerable budget gap to fill and he has proposed plans to do so by increasing bridge and tunnel tolls. In the last two years, the city has already increased the subway, bus, and rail fares.
How are New Yorkers expected to survive increasing these increasing transportation costs? Most of your transportation costs will be incurred getting to and from work during the weekdays. On the weekends, most of the costs are recreational and incurred voluntarily.
Many New Yorkers who live within walking distance of their jobs should make an effort to walk because it’s healthy and free. If you’re a little further away, you may want to consider biking to work. A bikes price range can be anywhere between $200 and $2000 depending on the quality and type of bike. You probably won’t be riding in the rain, but it will still save you money over the year. If you happen to have a bike already, then you’re ahead of the game and can start saving money and being healthier immediately. The mayor has been slowly transforming major roadways to include bicycle lanes as part of his initiative to create a healthier New York City.
If you live in one of the outer boroughs, it would be very difficult to bike or walk into Manhattan every morning for work. However, you can save money by purchasing unlimited MetroCards and/or taking advantage of programs like TransitChek. Just the simple decision to take the subway instead of a taxi saves you money instantly.
MetroCards are available in different denominations and the base fare is always $2.25. However, if you take the subway or bus for more than just commuting to work, then the unlimited might work better for you. According to the Mass Transit Authority’s (MTA) calculations, you should purchase the 7-day unlimited MetroCard if you take more than 16 rides a week. A 30-day is recommended for those who take more than 59 rides a month. Your 7-day or 30-day window doesn’t start until after your first swipe. This means you can preemptively purchase one, if you know you’ll be using it a lot the following week or month.
TransitChek is a program that your employer has to enroll in. Once they do so, their employees are eligible to use tax-free dollars to pay for their commuting expenses. By purchasing a voucher via payroll deductions, you save money instantly by having a lower taxable income. The current maximum deduction is $230/month towards transportation. There is also a Premium TransitChek program that offers a separate tax-free deduction to pay for parking at the commuter lots.
There are two New York rail organizations, Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road (LIRR). Metro-North serves the upstate and Connecticut region, where the LIRR predominantly covers transportation out east across Nassau and Suffolk County. If you happen to use either service, you understand how much more expensive they are compared to the subway and bus fares. There are ways to still save money.
The most obvious way to save money is to go with the monthly tickets. However, if you take the LIRR and pass through Jamaica Station, there is another way you can save money. Most LIRR commuters take the train all the way into Penn Station and many have to transfer to the subway afterwards. My suggestion is to sacrifice a little time to save money. By waking up a little earlier, you can purchase a monthly to Jamaica Station and take the subway from there to your destination. Skipping that last zone can save you about $60/month on a monthly ticket and it’ll only cost you about 20 – 30 minutes of sleep to make up the time.
Driving to work, especially into New York City, is one of the most costly commuter options. You have to worry about variable costs like gas prices, higher insurance premiums, and parking costs. A taxi is not much better, yellow cab fares start at $2.50 and can accrue quickly in high traffic conditions. Regardless of the high costs, there are still ways to reduce them via carpooling.
New York’s Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) has created a pilot program called the Group Ride Vehicle. At $2 a person, it will offer a shuttle service during rush hour between specific neighborhoods where transportation options are limited. You don’t need to wait for the TLC to offer the service in your area. Through posters at work, word of mouth, or even the Internet, there is a good chance you can find people to drive into the city with. By carpooling with people whose destinations are close to each other, you can share the costs of commuting. Just remember to try and avoid tolls to minimize costs.
There are many ways to save money on transport in New York. You’re not limited to one, use a combination if it will be cheaper. One thing you have to do is make a conscious effort to see which options can and should be used. Please remember to try to walk and bike as much as you can because it’s free, it’s healthier for you and much better for the environment.