Transit Advocates Rally For MetroCard Discounts For Low-Income New Yorkers

Tabitha Britt

On Sunday, a transit group called on the city of New York to give low-income New Yorkers a break to ride subways and buses.

The Riders Alliance, joined by City Controller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James, launched a "Fair Fares" campaign in hopes to persuade Mayor de Blasio and lawmakers to create a program for half-priced MetroCards for an estimated 800,000 residents living below the poverty line who would be eligible to participate.

A study conducted by the Community Service Society, which supports the effort, estimated that it would cost the Metropolitan Transportation Authority $194 million a year if just 361,000 of the eligible New Yorkers make use of a half-cost MetroCard.

Under the proposal, any adult between the ages of 18 and 64 who is under the federal poverty level would be eligible for a MetroCard charging $1.35 per ride. According to Harold Stopler, an economist for the Community Service Society who co-wrote the report, there are several ways that the state could pay for MetroCards.

According to the study, the MTA – which offers reduced fares for the elderly and the disabled – could be made whole from the city's budget or new revenue from higher gas surcharges and new bridge tolls. The study also notes that the city would save money from the $48 million it spends on MetroCards for people enrolled in education programs and job training.

Community Service Society President David Jones and de Blasio's nominee to the MTA board, said that high transit prices burden the working poor, and according to the group's report, more than a quarter of working age people who struggle to make ends meet had been unable to afford a MetroCard swipe.

"The MTA should be available to everyone in our city, not just those with credit cards in their pocket who can afford a monthly pass, but to those with a few bucks in their pockets who are struggling to take care of their families and get ahead," Jones said in a statement.

The report also points to cities such as Seattle, San Francisco, and London as examples of places where mass-transit agencies offer fare discounts to low-income riders.

"A 30-day transit pass is a real discount," Jones told NY 1. "But an individual who's just at the margins, who's a car wash worker or someone working at a low-wage job - can't afford a monthly pass."

A few "Fair Fares" advocates admitted that some riders are taking drastic measures.

"There were 29,000 fare-jumping arrests last year," Jones told NY 1. "This is a sign, sort of a bellwether, of real desperation."

The MTA has yet to comment on the matter.

"The Riders Alliance and the Community Service Society have put together an interesting proposal, and we look forward to reviewing the report in greater detail," de Blasio spokeswoman Natalie Grybauskas said in a statement.

[Image via Pixabay]