Nobody has time to go to a Metropolitan Transit Authority meeting, so the cameras the agency is placing throughout its system to take public comment about plans to raise bus and subway fares are quite a populist piece of outreach. They’re also going to be a great social experiment. The idea for the cameras is that you can get in front of them and say your piece, and a video and transcript will go to the members of the MTA board ahead of its vote on a fare scheme in December. It sounds a little like the straphanger version of some reality show confessional. Our first assumption (shared by the Daily News, which broke the story) was that the cameras would collect tape after tape of snarling, yelling, uncivil rants. But there seems to be a strategy in place to avoid that.
For one thing, none of the cameras are being placed in subway stations, where people could turn on them after, say, waiting forever for the C train. The only camera in Manhattan is going in a downtown office building, two others are headed for Long Island Rail Road stations, and one will be set up in a MetroNorth station (no word on where yet). If you’re a New Yorker going to give your testimony to the Manhattan camera, you probably have some outline of what you’re going to say, so a spontaneous subway-inspired rant is less likely (unless your train fails on the way over).
The people giving video feedback in Long Island and Westchester are going to mainly be commuters who ride to work from Grand Central and Penn stations. Therefore, they don’t have as much exposure to G train weekend shutdowns or massive rain delays from the outer boroughs, which are bound to make you more shouty than normal.
And then there’s the fact that you’re talking into a camera in the first place. Yes, it’s easier to abuse an inanimate object than an actual person, but it’s also harder to get bent out of shape without stimulus. And what’s on the table isn’t shocking. The fare increases are stiff — a monthly card could go to $125 from $104 — but they’re not out of keeping with past increases. The last one saw a similar jump to $104 from $89. So if you think that’s worth yelling about (and we’re not saying it’s not), you either have to go to the hearing and do so in person, or else shout into a vacuum and just trust the tape gets seen by the right people.