Nobody seriously expected a single-ride subway fare to cost 5 cents forever.
When August Belmont Jr., who had a mansion in Hempstead Village and attended St. George’s Episcopal Church on Front Street, took over the Manhattan Railway Company and created the Interborough Rapid Transit Company in 1904, riders paid a nickel for a steam-driven train ride from City Hall, in Lower Manhattan, to 145th Street and Broadway.
Rides on horse-drawn buses cost the same.
Not until 1948 did the fare change. It doubled to 10 cents.
Scroll forward to present-day prices. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s basic price for a single-fare ride will increase 4 percent as of Aug. 20, from $2.75 to $2.90. Other fares will increase similarly (though student, senior and Paratransit prices will stay the same).
Five cents in 1904 equals $1.71 now, so any way you figure it, the price of a single ride in 2023 is higher than 119 years ago.
Commuters in Hempstead and Uniondale did not react positively.
“I don’t think it’s fair to the passengers,” said Lacy, a Uniondale resident who rides the westbound n48/49 bus to work each day. “I think the fare should be cut back to $2.50. The scheduling is bad, too. On weekends the bus only comes every 45 minutes. Some weekends it’s late and then I’m late going to work.”
“I go to Westbury, to Garden City, to Mineola, Wantagh, Jamaica,” said Patricia, a health worker in freshly ironed scrubs waiting at the northbound n43 stop near Uniondale Avenue and Front Street. “I’ll tell you something: $2.75 is plenty.”
Patricia noted that she often rides two buses to get to her assignment. The transfer is free, but it’s not enough help on the days when she must ride a third bus.
“There’s a seven-day unlimited card,” she said, “but if you’re not called to work enough that week, what happens to your money for the unlimited card? Lost!” She often resorts to paying her fare with coins, because Uniondale has no terminal where she can buy a Metrocard. Western Union sells the cards, but isn’t within easy walking distance.
“I think the fare hike is necessary,” said Thomas Rogers, who rides from his Uniondale residence to his job in Farmingdale. “The bus company squanders a lot of its funds, and they’re not getting enough transit reimbursements from the federal level or the state level.”
He waved cheerfully as he and Patricia boarded the n43.
During evening rush hour, about 30 people waited in line for the N6 bus, which runs from the Hempstead bus terminal to 179th Street in Jamaica. From there, many would transfer to the F train or another bus.
“It’s still the cheapest ride,” said an upbeat commuter who identified himself as Jay. “You go to any other state, it’s a lot more. New York City’s the only city where you can go 31 miles for $2.75, or, OK, $2.90.”
“I always use the bus, but I don’t go to work every day,” said Margarita Nunez Rodriguez, 69, a Baldwin resident who spoke in Spanish. “It’s difficult for someone who works.”
“I know a lot of people are complaining about everything that’s going on with the bus, the railroad, Metro North,” said Neltje Horton, a Hempstead resident who works in Mineola. “I usually carpool with a friend, so it doesn’t hit me as hard as if I had to ride the bus every day.”
“I don’t think it’s fair,” said Amber Johnson, also a Hempstead resident, as she got off an LIRR train. “I commute six days to Queens on the LIRR plus a Queens bus. It’s more than $20 just to go to my job and back, and now it’s going to be even more.”
At the m48/49 stop at Beverly Road and Front Street, near the border of Hempstead and Uniondale, a Hempstead rider named Rich sounded weary.
“I take two buses to get from here to work in Hicksville,” he said. “I expect the prices to go up. Everything’s going up. It is what it is.”