LIC NY Subway Train

Photo: MTA/Flickr

New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority raised fare prices earlier this week, much to the chagrin of the city’s countless commuters. But while angry straphangers take to Twitter to complain about rising fares and shoddy service, the city’s vast public transportation system ranks as one of the more affordable in the country, according to a recent report by financial data and research company ValuePenguin.

To determine the affordability of mass transit systems across the country, ValuePenguin analyzed median earnings of commuters, and the average cost of monthly unlimited use passes for all major modes of transportation (excluding taxis) in 73 US cities from 71 different data sources. Cities needed over 5,000 workers aged 16 and older using mass transit to be included in the report while seven cities were eliminated despite meeting the criteria due to insufficient data, says ValuePenguin.

On average, commuters spend about 3.2 percent of their annual salary on commuting costs via mass transit, ValuePenguin revealed.

The good news for New Yorkers is that they only spend on average 3.5 percent of their income on commuting costs, slightly above the national average but much lower than some of the other cities included in the study. The median annual salary in New York City was listed as $40,126 by ValuePenguin. And, according to its analysis of the data, New York City’s mass transit system was actually reasonably affordable — it ranked right in the middle at 32 (out of 73), despite the recent MTA fare increase. The cost of a monthly unlimited ride pass is now $121 per month.

And therein presents the complication in the case of New York City — New Yorkers have higher incomes, on average, when compared to commuters in the majority of the other cities studied. Even with the recent increase, an unlimited ride Metrocard in New York City is still more affordable than a monthly pass in Los Angeles, CA — the least affordable city for commuters.

But it is also worth pointing out that ValuePenguin estimated the annual Los Angeleno commuter’s salary at $16,848, while the monthly unlimited ride pass came with a $122 price tag — almost 9 percent of a commuter’s income.

Comparatively, neighboring San Francisco, CA and San Jose, CA commuters fared far better — ranking 11th and 12th respectively, making them more affordable for commuters. In San Francisco, a monthly pass costs $91, or just 2.2 percent of the median annual salary of $50,501. Meanwhile, a monthly pass will cost riders $70, or 2.3 percent of their median annual salary of $36,562 in San Jose.

Bremerton, WA — an hour away from Seattle by mass transit — was named the most affordable city for commuters, where a monthly pass will only cost commuters 1 percent of their annual income.

Bridgeport, CT, Trenton, NJ and Washington, DC were the only cities in the Northeast that were among the top 10 most affordable for commuters, ranking second, third, and seventh respectively. Also of note, among the cities that had the highest number of commuters, DC was named the most affordable city, while New York City ranked eighth.

Click here to read the entire report.

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