Contact: Jeff Maclin, Community Service Society
(212) 614-5538 (office)
(718) 309-2346 (cell)
Rebecca Bailin, Riders Alliance
Petition Drive Launched Urging Mayor to Include Funds for “Fair Fares” in FY2018 Budget Amidst Surging Support from Elected Officials, Labor and Advocates
New York, NY--Today, the MTA Board voted to keep the base bus and subway fare at $2.75, but to decrease the value of the bonus and increase the cost of seven and 30-day monthly passes, making fares more expensive overall. In response, low-income riders and advocates announced a petition drive to urge New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to amend his proposed City budget for Fiscal Year 2018 to include funding for half-price MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers. The mayor’s preliminary budget, released just yesterday, did not include funding for Fair Fares.
“While we can differ on what adjustments to fare types would hurt the poor the least, the real issue is that fares were already unaffordable to struggling New Yorkers and any increase makes it that much harder,” said David R. Jones, President and CEO of Community Service Society, and an MTA Board Member. “Keeping the base fare at $2.75 is not the answer. We need a meaningful discount, which is why we’ve been advocating for half-fares for New Yorkers at or below poverty. If Mayor de Blasio is looking for a way to widen the doors to economic opportunity for ‘the other New York,’ keeping the bus and subway doors open should be at the top of his list right now.”
At today’s MTA board meeting, New Yorkers spoke about how the fare increase will make it even more difficult to get to work, commute to college, and survive in a city where they are so dependent on public transit. They expressed disappointment that Mayor de Blasio has not yet included funding for Fair Fares in his proposed 2018 budget. Speaking to the difficulties and sacrifices they’re forced to make in order to get around, riders are calling on New Yorkers to urge Mayor de Blasio to step in and help low-income New Yorkers with Fair Fares. Organizations that work with low-income communities spoke to the need for a discount fare program to help their members access services.
Samuel Santaella, a Riders Alliance member from St. Albans, Queens said, “I have had to skip meals and postpone buying clothes to pay for the bus. At times when my mom and my little sister and I need to go somewhere together, the cost also makes it difficult to celebrate academic achievements or attend a doctor’s appointment. I am disappointed that Mayor de Blasio didn’t include funding for half-priced MetroCards for low-income riders in his preliminary budget. But there’s still time for the mayor to do the right thing and help low-income riders like myself get ahead.”
Support for Fair Fares continues to grow among city elected officials, advocacy organizations, unions, and editorial boards. Most recently, this month, Borough Presidents Eric Adams (Brooklyn), Gale Brewer (Manhattan), Ruben Diaz Jr. (Bronx), and Melinda Katz (Queens) joined the push urging Mayor de Blasio to use his executive power to establish a half-price fare for New Yorkers between the ages of 18 and 64 living in households at or below poverty.
Rebecca Bailin, Campaign Manager at the Riders Alliance, said, “There are 53 days and counting until the fares go up. Low-income New Yorkers need Mayor de Blasio to have their back and help them afford public transit. We encourage New Yorkers who support Fair Fares to tell the mayor that they expect him to do what’s right and fund Fair Fares.”
Research from a Community Service Society (CSS) report released last year found that more than one in four working-age, low-income New Yorkers often cannot afford the cost of bus and subway fares. According to the CSS report, The Transit Affordability Crisis, 58 percent of poor New Yorkers are reliant on buses and subways for their livelihoods. The cost of riding the city’s buses and subways has steadily increased over the years, proportionately outpacing earnings for the city’s lower-income households. For example, between 2007 and 2015, bus and subway fares rose by 45 percent—six times faster than average salaries in New York City, according to a September 2016 report from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
Public support for the Fair Fares campaign is also strong. Seventy-three (73) percent of New Yorkers say they favor a policy of providing half-priced fares to low-income residents, according to a 2016 CSS poll conducted in collaboration with Lake Research Partners. A discount fare would save working-age city residents living in poverty ($24,036 for a family of four) up to $700 annually on the cost of a MetroCard. Roughly 800,000 low-income New Yorkers would be eligible. CSS estimates that the program would cost the city about $200 million in foregone fare box revenue—about 0.2 percent of the Mayor’s proposed $84.67 billion municipal budget. Existing law gives the mayor the authority to secure a discount for a class of riders as long as the city makes up the differential and administrative costs.
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