Advocates Push for City to Put Up Funds So Low-Income NYers Can Get Half-Price MetroCards

With straphangers facing another fare increase next spring, advocates made another push at cutting it in half for lower-income riders, and they want the city to pick up the tab. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.

The transit system is Governor Andrew Cuomo's responsibility. But it's the mayor who's being pushed to chip in more so low-income New Yorkers can pay less to ride the buses and subways.

"The time to act is now," said David Jones, president and CEO of the Community Service Society. "Mayor de Blasio has pledged to address economic inequality. He campaigned on it. He made it a cornerstone of his administration."

On Wednesday, advocates, led by one of the mayor's appointees to the MTA board, urged City Hall to put up $220 million a year so more than 800,000 New Yorkers living below the poverty line can get half-price MetroCards.

"The turnstiles should be a pathway to economic opportunity, not another barrier," said John Raskin of Riders Alliance.

The City Hall rally came as more than half of the 51 City Council members jumped on board with the Fair Fares campaign.

"If the mayor truly cares about the fight to make sure that everyone has an equal playing field in this city, he will take this effort very seriously and make sure we have the funding in the budget," said City Councilman Rafael Espinal of Brooklyn.

City Council members say if the mayor doesn't include the money for the reduced-fares program in the city's next budget, they'll find a way to work around that. That could be through legislation in the Council.

"The legislation would require the city to subsidize this program," said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens.

It is something the city already does so seniors, students and the disabled can get reduced fares.

Riders at a South Bronx station said reduced fares could keep them from having to make tough choices.

"A lot of people don't got it, and they got to pay for the groceries, and they can't even take no transportation," said one rider.

"Last time I sacrified, I got a ticket for hopping the turnstile, because I wasn't working," said another.

The mayor called the Fair Fares proposal interesting when it was first floated in April. A de Blasio spokeswoman said Wednesday that the city last year promised to boost its annual subsidy to the MTA, as well as chip in a record $2.5 billion to the MTA's five-year construction plan. But she said the Fair Fares proposal will be evaluated.

 

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