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Half-price MetroCard program to be expanded

NYCHA residents, CUNY students, veterans eligible for Fair Fares

March 6, 2019 Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The Fair Fares program spearheaded by the de Blasio administration, which allows low-income New Yorkers to buy MetroCards at half-price, is expanding, city officials announced this week.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council speaker Corey Johnson announced on March 4 that starting this fall, residents living in NYCHA developments, students enrolled in CUNY and military veterans will become eligible for Fair Fares if they live below the federal poverty line. The poverty level is an annual income of $25,750 for a family of four.

“We’re doing all we can to help low-income riders get around in a city that can be very difficult to afford. We think this program will go a long way toward making our city even fairer and we’re excited to expand this unprecedented initiative to more New Yorkers,” de Blasio said in a statement.

The expansion will help residents avoid a drastic choice, Johnson said. “No New Yorker should have to choose between a swipe and a meal.”

The first phase of the $106 million program was launched in January, with city’s Department of Social Services conducting an extensive outreach to 45,000 eligible New Yorkers who are receiving cash assistance and/or SNAP benefits. The department sent notifications and made follow-up phone calls to inform residents of the program and offered information on where to pick up the half-price MetroCards.

The expansion of Fair Fares means that more New Yorkers will get a much-needed helping hand in their efforts to climb out of poverty, according to Councilmember Justin Brannan, a Democrat who represents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst.

“Families living in poverty shouldn’t have to beg for a swipe or schedule their entire lives around one shared unlimited MetroCard,” Brannan told the Brooklyn Eagle. “Expanding Fair Fares is a step in the right direction towards getting everyone where they’ve gotta go and making New York truly a city for all.”

David R. Jones, president and CEO of the Community Services Society, the nonprofit organization that first came up with the idea of half-fare MetroCards, said the ability to travel around the city unencumbered by economic constraints is an important part of lifting people out of poverty.

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“The steps being taken today demonstrate the shared commitment by the mayor, the speaker, the City Council, and advocates to fulfill the program’s vision of making the turnstile the gateway to economic opportunity for all New Yorkers who are struggling to get ahead,” Jones said in a statement.

“For hardworking New Yorkers, simply getting to work should not be its own hardship,” noted Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks.

City officials also plan to launch an online advertising campaign to spread the word about Fair Fares. Advertisements targeting the top 25 New York City zip codes where large numbers of eligible residents live will start to appear on social media platforms and in Google keyword searches.

Councilmember Stephen Levin, a Democrat representing Greenpoint and parts of Williamsburg, DUMBO and Downtown Brooklyn, praised Fare Fares as a program with the potential to level the playing field.

“Access to food, housing support, and health care are essential public benefits, and with this program, we’ll soon make sure that transportation is a benefit accessible to all too,” said Levin, chairperson of the Council’s General Welfare Committee.

Leaders of the Riders Alliance, the transit advocacy group that pushed for the adoption of Fair Fares, said they’re willing to work with the city as the program moves forward. “With each new phase of the program, we look forward to working closely with the administration and our allies to ensure its success,” said Riders Alliance Community Organizer Danna Dennis.

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