Bay Ridge

Riders Alliance starts petition drive to lower MetroCard prices

Poverty stricken New Yorkers deserve a break, advocates say

January 26, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Advocates want Metrocards to come with a special discount for New Yorkers living below the poverty level so they can affordably ride the subway and buses. AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
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In response to a decision Wednesday by the MTA to keep bus and subway fares at $2.75 and raise the cost of weekly and monthly MetroCards, the Riders Alliance is stepping up its fight to get Mayor Bill de Blasio to give low-income New Yorkers a break on the fares.

Working with Community Service Society (CSS), a nonprofit organization, the Riders Alliance has started a petition drive to urge de Blasio to change his proposed city budget for Fiscal Year 2018 to include funding for half-price MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers. The mayor did not include half-price MetroCards in his preliminary budget, which was released on Tuesday.

The petition asks that the mayor amend his budget proposal to include funding for the half-fare program, called Fair Fares.

“Low-income New Yorkers need Mayor de Blasio to have their back and help them afford public transit,” said Rebecca Bailin, campaign manager at the Riders Alliance. “We encourage New Yorkers who support Fair Fares to tell the mayor that they expect him to do what’s right and fund Fair Fares.” 

At the MTA board meeting on Wednesday, representatives of organizations that work with low-income residents spoke about the need for a discount fare program.

At the meeting, the MTA board voted to maintain basic fares at $2.75 per ride. The cost of weekly MetroCards will increase by $1, from $31 to $32, and riders will now be paying $121 for a monthly MetroCard, up from the $116.50 they used to pay. The new fares will go into effect on March 19.

“While we can differ on what adjustments to fare types would hurt the poor the least, the real issue is that fares were already unaffordable to struggling New Yorkers and any increase makes it that much harder,” said David R. Jones, president and CEO of CCS and an MTA board member. “Keeping the base fare at $2.75 is not the answer. We need a meaningful discount, which is why we’ve been advocating for half-fares for New Yorkers at or below poverty.”

Under the Fair Fares proposal, a half-price fare would be established for New Yorkers between the ages of 18 and 64 living in households at or below poverty.

A CSS report released in 2016 found that more than one in four low-income New Yorkers cannot afford the cost of bus and subway fares, a factor that threatens to shut them out of jobs located outside of their neighborhoods.

A discounted fare would save poverty-stricken residents up to $700 a year, according to the CSS. An estimated 800,000 riders would be eligible.

The Fair Fares program would cost the city approximately $200 million in fare box revenue, according to CSS. That represents 0.2 percent of the mayor’s proposed $84.67 billion municipal budget.

Several Brooklyn members of the City Council support the Fair Fares fight. Councilmembers Vincent Gentile, Stephen Levin, Rafael Espinal and Carlos Menchaca all spoke out in the wake of a press conference on the issue held at City Hall on Oct. 19.

“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.

 

For information on the petition, visit ridersny.org.

 


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