East New York

Pols favor reduced Metrocards for low-income riders

Espinal says access to transit services is vital

October 21, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Several Brooklyn members of the City Council are throwing their support behind the effort to make reduced fare Metrocards available to low income New Yorkers. Rendering courtesy of the MTA
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Several Brooklyn members of the City Council have climbed aboard an effort by transportation and anti-poverty advocacy groups to get Mayor Bill de Blasio to introduce a reduced fare Metrocard system for low income New Yorkers.

Councilmembers Vincent Gentile, Stephen Levin, Rafael Espinal and Carlos Menchaca are among those speaking out in the wake of a press conference held at City Hall on Oct. 19 to push the “Fair Fares” campaign led by the Community Service Society (CSS) and the Riders Alliance.

At the press conference, CSS and the Riders Alliance announced that 30 elected officials from across the city and 29 community-based groups have joined in support of the effort. 

CSS and Riders Alliance also released a letter to de Blasio urging him to include funding in his Fiscal Year 2018 executive budget for a program that would offer half-price MetroCards to New Yorkers between the ages of 18 and 64 living in households with incomes at or below the Federal Poverty Level.

“Making the city a more equitable place to live and work starts with ensuring that our vast public transportation system is both affordable and accessible to all New Yorkers, and not just the economically-better off,” said CSS President and CEO David R. Jones.

“New York City’s public transit system connects so many New Yorkers in all five boroughs each and every day. Access to our subways and buses should never be a barrier for low-income New Yorkers who have so much to gain from the opportunity of mobility,” said Espinal (D-East New York-Cypress Hills), chairman of the Committee on Consumer Affairs.

“In this city, we work hard to ensure that low-income New Yorkers have access to affordable housing, food banks and health insurance. Yet our public transportation system has not been a part of this equation. Reduced fares would enable those in need to travel to that job interview, get to that professional training class or go to the public library at an affordable cost,” Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights) said.

Levin (D-Greenpoint-Brooklyn Heights) said that healthcare, education and economic opportunity “are often a MetroCard swipe away” and that the city “should do everything we can to empower families and reduce barriers to getting around our city.”

Menchaca (D-Sunset Park-Red Hook) charged that low income New Yorkers simply can’t afford transit fares. “Since 2007, subway and bus fares have risen three times faster than inflation and six times faster than NYC salaries,” he said.

According to a recent CSS report, “The Transit Affordability Crisis; How Reduced MTA Fares Can Help Low-Income New Yorkers Move Ahead,” as many as 800,000 New Yorkers would be eligible for reduced fares. Financially-strapped New Yorkers would save an estimated $700 annually on the cost of monthly MetroCards.   

Recent CSS survey results indicate that the steep cost of transit fares forces many low-income New Yorkers to choose between transit and other necessities such as food and rent. 

A third of working-age poor New Yorkers said they did not take a job or look for jobs farther from where they live because of the cost of a MetroCard. 

Seniors and people with disabilities qualify for half-price MetroCards, regardless of income. Public school students receive limited-use MetroCards from the Department of Education.

Based on the data, a half-fare program has the potential to be a voting issue in the 2017 mayoral contest, according to the CSS. When asked whether they would be more or less likely to vote for a mayoral candidate who championed a half-fare program for low-income New Yorkers, 62 percent of respondents said they would more likely to vote for a candidate who promised to make half-price fares available to low- income riders.


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