The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has decided to postpone a vote on whether to eliminate free and discounted MetroCards for city students.
MTA Chairman Jay Walder made the announcement Wednesday night while meeting with dozens of students at the agency's headquarters in Midtown.
"I also want to take away any confusion about whether or not this will be dealt with at the board meeting on March 24th. There is no need to deal with it at the board meeting on March 24th," Walder said. "We'd like to leave additional time, as much time as possible for discussion with the city and the state."
Many students who attended the meeting say they cannot afford to pay for MetroCards and want the city, state and MTA to come up with a solution.
"We want the state and the city to bring new revenue sources that can keep flowing in and this is for the broader budget," said one student.
"President Obama has stated that by the year 2020 he wants the U.S. to have the highest graduation rates in the world. How will be achieve that goal if the largest school district in the country will prevent low income students the opportunity to travel to the schools that give them the best opportunity to graduate?" asked another student.
The agency says it's struggling to close a nearly $800 million budget gap and simply can't afford the $214 million it costs to give students free MetroCards.
"We can no longer cover for the state and the city in regard to these free student fares. Free student fares should be a city and a state responsibility," Walder said.
When asked about the fate of student MetroCards Wednesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city is already doing it's part.
"The state cut back the subsidies and cut back the monies they give to the MTA. The MTA, Jay Walder -- I'm sympathetic. He's got to balance his budget," said the mayor.
The MTA plan not only calls for cutting the free MetroCards, but to charge students half fare.
"We would start to collect revenue from the students. That would, in fact, reduce the shortfall," Walder said.
Walder says he was impressed with the students and that a vote on the MetroCard program is not likely until at least June.