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.