New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority is, like most New York government bodies, suffering from drastic budget shortfalls. (Hopefully, all those record profits will perk up the coffers next year . . . but I wouldn't count on it.) It just announced a Doomsday budget that includes cutting out free rides for schoolchildren, a proud tradition since 1948. Yours truly rode up and down the 1/9 tracks for four years on a subway pass. Back then it was common practice to request one even if you walked to school, since they were pretty much good for unlimited free subway rides until metro cards came in and enabled auditing. These days, the kids mostly just get a ride to school--but soon it may not even be that. Unless they get a bailout from the city or state, they claim, the free ride is over.
This is pretty standard bureaucratic tactic, especially in government agencies that serve particularly cherished segments of the public: when you're forced to make budget cuts, you cut the program that will cause the most public anguish. This time, however, I'm not sure the city or the state have $400 million lying around to give them. The state government has almost used up all its budget tricks, and is going to be forced into increasingly drastic measures if revenues don't improve soon.