Effect Measure

Subways, phones and the price of things

When my mother died last year at the age of 103 it ended a life that went from the Wright Brothers first flight through to the internet. That’s a lot of change to accommodate, but she did it pretty well, although there were things she could not get used to. One of the things that was hardest for her to get used to was the prices of particular things, of which long distance telephone calls was an example. Long past the time when such calls had become ridiculously cheap, she was always nervous about talking “long distance.” I’ll grant you it’s sometimes hard to adjust, always comparing things like the telephone or the price of gasoline from our youth to the cost today without taking the general increase in prices and salaries into account. So I was glad to find the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index (CPI) Inflation Calculator. You can pick any two years and compare prices adjusted for inflation. I tried it when I read that New York City was going to increase their subway fares to $2.50 a ride. That seemed like a lot but I wondered how that compared to the days when I was riding the IRT Lexington Avenue line in the early sixties.

I found the subway fares at (where else?) nycsubway.org. In the years 1953 – 1966 the subway used the “Small Y” token, which cost 15 cents. The CPI calculator told me that in today’s money, that would be $1.01. Even when the token increased in 1966 to 20 cents, that’s only $1.27 in today’s coin. So $2.50 is an enormous increase from those days. Gas in 1966 was 32 cents a gallon, which today would be $2.10. According to AAA, the average price for a gallon of regular today is $1.96, cheaper than in 1966.

So traveling by car is cheaper, mass transit much more expensive. Probably not good policy.

Comments

  1. #1 Comrade PhysioProf
    March 28, 2009

    The MTA is controlled by well-off suburban constituents whose car driving and commuter train riding is subsidized by working-class people who take the subway.

  2. #2 Mike
    March 28, 2009

    I think that the other shocking thing — coming from someone who takes the subway to work — is that it is a 25% increase over current fares. That is astronomical.

  3. #3 pft
    March 28, 2009

    CPI understates inflation since they started twiddling with it in 1980 and especially in the Clinton years. Inflation is about 3% more than is being reported.

    Taking into account pre-Clinton methodology, 20 cents in 1966 should be about 2.60 today. So the T is just keeping up with inflation. Gasoline on the other hand was about 30 cents per gallon in 1966 and should be 3.90 today, which it was just a short while ago. At 2 dollars it is cheap, especially when you consider that cars in those days were getting about 8-10 mpg.

    More on CPI here.

    http://www.shadowstats.com/article/consumer_price_index

    Also, given the peak oil myth says we should be running out of oil, we have doubled proven reserves in 30 years, and the price of oil is lower. The recent price rise was entirely due to commodity speculation in futures, and then the big boys shorted the futures making money on both the upside and downside. Look for more to come, and on the next upside they will again blame peak oil, which is BS. Thomas Golds abiotic theory of oil suggests we have much more oil than Big Oil wants us to believe.

  4. #4 Blake Stacey
    March 29, 2009

    Abiotic oil? That which is to geology as Lysenkoism was to genetics? Somewhere in the distance, I hear the sound of geologists laughing derisively. . . .

  5. #5 Dann
    August 4, 2009

    I do not subscribe to conspiracy theories regarding the state of acceptance of oil theories, but abiotic oil theory is not that bad:

    [National Geographic news] “Fossil Free” Fossil Fuels May Lie Deep Inside Earth

    As a side note, I also suspect that Lysenkoism/Michurinism may be a victim of a popular (in the geek world, at least) caricatural depiction, akin to the simplified and distorted “Darwin versus Lamarck” historic narrative on fifth grade textbooks. Not that it “is true”, only that they were not complete idiots, driven by “human-nature denial ideology”. Simply does not make sense that the same government would invest in human and ape hybridization experiments if they thought “genes do not mean anything”, and that phenotypic malleability is highly inheritable. But I don’t really know much.

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