Back funding half-priced transit fares for working-age poor in Council’s response to Mayor’s Preliminary Budget
In response to Mayor de Blasio’s refusal -- for the second year in a row - to include funding in the city’s budget for a reduced transit fare program for the lowest income New Yorkers, a majority of New York City Council Members affirmed their support for a discount fare program and want it to be part of the Council’s response to the mayor’s FY 2019 preliminary budget.
Under the title “New York City Council Members for Fair Fares,” 35 Council Members signed a letter to Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Finance Committee Chair Daniel Dromm declaring that access to the city’s “subways and buses is a basic economic necessity for New Yorkers.”
Citing language from Mayor de Blasio’s `State of the City’ address last month in which he proclaimed his goal of making New York City the “Fairest Big City in the America,” signatories to the letter argued that lofty rhetoric alone will not lift up low-income New Yorkers struggling to get to work, school, medical appointments and essential services. The letter states:
“To be a truly progressive city, we should fund half-price MetroCards for New Yorkers living in poverty . . . . . New York, which continues to face staggering levels of income inequality, cannot be the fairest city in America while hundreds of thousands of our neighbors have trouble accessing daily necessities because they cannot afford to take the bus or subway. Over the past year, Mayor de Blasio has evinced a clear understanding of the bar that full fares pose to so many New Yorkers’ participation in city life and struggle to rise out of poverty. We are confident, that where the Council leads, the mayor will follow and join us in weaving a vital new thread into our social safety net.”
The Community Service Society (CSS) and Riders Alliance, a transit rider membership organization, launched the `Fair Fares’ campaign two years ago based on CSS research which found that one in four low-income residents often cannot afford bus and subway fares.
Today 65 economic justice, labor, transit, women’s rights, legal and faith groups support the campaign. Under the `Fair Fares’ proposal, working-age New York City residents living at or below poverty ($24,339 for a family of four) would be eligible for half-priced MetroCards. It would save poor city transit riders $726 annually off the cost of a monthly MetroCard.
Ultimately, supporters of `Fair Fares’ are hoping the Speaker and City Council will include funding to make a half-priced transit fare a reality for low-income New Yorkers in its budget response and a priority in the final budget negotiations.
“Making mass transit affordable to the New Yorkers who rely on it most should be our top priority. This of course means exploring ways to reduce fares for low-income residents. And just as important, it means seriously addressing the MTA’s ever-increasing costs, which lead to frequent fare increases," said Council Member Helen Rosenthal (Manhattan, District 6)
“In New York City, one in four low-income residents cannot afford public transportation fares. Still, they need to use public transit to go to work, take their kids to the doctor and move around to get basic services,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca (38th Council District). “As a Council committed to putting our people first, I’m joining fellow Council Members and advocates in asking Speaker Corey Johnson and Finance Chair Daniel Dromm to support low-income New Yorkers by including funding for Fair Fares in the Council’s response to the Mayor’s Preliminary Budget. New Yorkers living in poverty are struggling enough to make ends meet. They deserve our support. They deserve better."
“Giving residents affordable discounted MetroCards would make our buses and subways more accessible for so many,” said Council Member Adrienne Adams (28th Council District). “We need to ensure that low-income New Yorkers can afford essential access to our transit system by supporting Fair Fares.”
“I join my colleagues in the fight for ‘Fair Fares’ as part of this year's budget. Half price bus and subway fares will be extremely helpful to low income New Yorkers who are generally most affected by Fare Beat arrests. This funding will alleviate that issue to some extent,” said Council Member Alicka Ampry- Samuel (41st District).
“New Yorkers of all backgrounds rely on our public transportation system to get to work or school, but too many can’t afford subway and bus fares. The costs of public transit continue to increase while the quality of service does not. If we truly want to be a fair city then we must include funding for Fair Fares in the City budget to ensure that all New Yorkers regardless of income status can continue to utilize our City’s public transit,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen (11th Council District).
"When our City's public transit system becomes unaffordable for a staggering 25 percent of low-income, working age New Yorkers, it causes a dangerous ripple effect on the stability and economic opportunities of thousands of working families," said Council Member Margaret. S. Chin (1st Council District). "That is why I join my Council colleagues and transportation advocates to call on the City to fund half-price MetroCards for low income New Yorkers. In order to build a more equitable City, we must identify the gaps that contribute to the income inequality divide, and take immediate steps to provide affordable access to transportation for the New Yorkers who need it the most."
"Having basic access to public transportation should not overwhelm a household budget,” said Council Member Barry S. Grodenchik (23rd Council District). “The Fair Fares proposal to provide low-income New Yorkers with half-priced MetroCards offers a significant step toward increasing transit affordability.”
"Public transit is a fundamental need for many of our city’s working families, but the cost can be prohibitive for low-income New Yorkers,” said Council Member Mark Treyger (47th Council District). “It’s bad enough that many New Yorkers routinely face public transit delays, maintenance issues, or limited service in certain parts of the city. We cannot let the price of a MetroCard come between New Yorkers’ ability to earn an income, get an education, or receive medical treatment. Fair Fares can help reduce our city’s income inequality gap, and I stand with my many colleagues and advocates in calling for this essential program to remain a budgetary priority."
“New Yorkers shouldn't have to decide between their subway fare and their groceries,” said Council Member James Van Bramer (26th Council District). “Access to our transportation system is a necessity for all New Yorkers and is all the more challenging to those with low incomes. We, as lawmakers, can help ensure that those living below the poverty line are able to take the bus or subway to appointments, work and school by making the Fair Fares plan a reality, guaranteeing half price MetroCards for some of our city’s most vulnerable.”
"New York City's working poor deserve respect. They should not have to jump turnstiles in order to get access to our public transportation system," said Council Member Ben Kallos (5th Council District). "If you make minimum wage, you have to put three hours of pay aside every week just to afford to get to work. By funding half-priced MetroCards in the 2018 budget, we would bring much-needed equity to our City's transportation system and increase opportunity for struggling residents."
“Subway or bus fare shouldn’t stand between low income New Yorkers and well-paying jobs,” said Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson (16th Council District). “Yet, for many in our great City, transit fare has become a significant barrier to a better, more economically stable life. Reduced transit fare for low income New Yorkers is a program that makes sense, and will only help connect even more New Yorkers to the wide array of social, cultural, educational, and professional experiences New York City has to offer. I thank the Riders Alliance and Community Service Society for their advocacy on this important issue and hope that Mayor de Blasio considers the many positive benefits of providing reduced fare MetroCards to low income New Yorkers.”
“Fair Fares allows low-income New Yorkers the chance to make a living for themselves and their families, getting to and from work without worrying about the cost of the commute,” said Council Member Keith Powers (4th Council District). “New Yorkers confront this crisis every day on their daily commutes when they are asked for a swipe. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the City Council to support and fund Fair Fares.”
“I fully support Fair Fares and I proudly stand with other New Yorkers and transit advocates to call for reduced price Metro Cards for low income New Yorkers,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera (14th Council District). “I have sponsored City Council legislation calling for reduced price Metro Cards for CUNY students, for youths who are out of school and unemployed, and to require the MTA to create a donation system for MetroCard purchasers to make voluntary contributions to a fund for low-income New Yorkers and a means to collect unused MetroCards to donate to low-income commuters. New Yorkers should not have to choose between going to work or school or to see a doctor and buying food. We need fair fares now!”
For more than 170 years, the Community Service Society of New York has been the leading voice on behalf of low-income New Yorkers and continues to advocate for the economic security of the working poor in the nation’s largest city. We respond to urgent, contemporary challenges with applied research, advocacy, litigation and innovative program models that help the working poor achieve a better quality of life and promote a more prosperous city.
The Riders Alliance is a grassroots organization of subway and bus riders pushing for better service at affordable fares and a stronger public investment in mass transit. Visit us at ridersny.org.