Straphangers have grudgingly gotten used to fare hikes arriving every other year. But now, two advocacy groups want to reverse that trend for low-income New Yorkers, by giving them a fare break. Transit Reporter Jose Martinez has that story.
After five fare hikes in nine years, paying to ride the bus or subway is not getting any easier for low-income New Yorkers.
"Pretty much everyone I know," said one straphanger. "Every time they raise the fare, a lot of people have to cut back on things like buying lunch."
"My father, he had a meeting yesterday and he couldn't make it because he didn't have enough money for the fare," said another.
On Sunday, the Community Service Society of New York and the Riders Alliance launched the "Fair Fares" campaign. It calls for cutting the $2.75 fare in half for hundreds of thousands of adult New Yorkers who fall below the poverty level.
"One in four low-income New Yorkers can't afford their MetroCard," said Rebecca Bailin with the Riders Alliance. "We think that public transportation needs to be publicly available to everyone and right now, it's not."
Citing reduced-fare discounts already in place for students and senior citizens, the groups want the city to help bankroll an extension of those benefits to low-income commuters. They offered up ideas to help cover the cost of discounted fares.
The report points to Seattle, San Francisco and London as examples of cities where the mass-transit agencies now offer fare discounts to low-income riders.
It also cites how those who can afford weekly or monthly MetroCards continue to pay discounted fares, while those who can only afford one trip at a time still pay full price.
"A 30-day transit pass is a real discount," said David Jones with the Community Service Society. "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."
With that, the advocates say, some riders are taking steps that are more drastic.
"There were 29,000 fare-jumping arrests last year," Jones said. "This is a sign, sort of a bellwether, of real desperation."
The fare discount would cost more than $200 million a year. A spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, who ran for election pledging to fight income inequality, called the proposal "interesting," adding, "We look forward to reviewing the report in greater detail."