Jeff Maclin, Community Service Society
(212) 614-5538 (office); (718) 309-2346 (cell)
Rebecca Bailin, Riders Alliance
Two weeks before scheduled launch few details on how city will reach out to nearly 800,000 eligible residents
With only two weeks to go before the scheduled start of the City’s widely-hailed half-priced subway and bus fares program, also known as “Fair Fares,” a group of almost 40 economic justice, transit, legal, labor, faith and community organizations are urging the de Blasio Administration to release its outreach plan and a timetable for when and how the nearly 800,000 eligible, low-income New Yorkers will be able to take advantage of the discount fare program.
In a December 12 letter to Mayor de Blasio, advocates of the Fair Fares program wrote: “As January 2019 fast approaches, all the low-income New Yorkers we promised to help are eagerly waiting to learn how they will be able to sign up for and start benefitting from their reduced-fare MetroCard. Among them are: the working poor, especially immigrants who do not qualify for public benefits or are fearful of accepting federal program that might put themselves or family members at risk; the unemployed searching for work; and low-income college students struggling to get the education they need to get ahead.”
Advocates also used the letter to encourage city officials to reconsider its plan to limit the availability of the Fair Fare discounts to 7-day and 30-day unlimited passes. Such a condition is not a feature of the city’s discount fare program for seniors and people with disabilities. More importantly, placing limits on fare payment options for low-income New Yorkers, who typically have trouble laying out money for transit fares a full week or month in advance, would reduce the reach and effectiveness of the program because fewer people would be able to take advantage of it.
The prospect of another transit fare hike looming in March, which could increase the base bus and subway fare to $3.00, underscores the urgency of a timely rollout of the Fair Fares program.
Among the 38 groups that signed onto the letter are: 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East; 32BJ SEIU; RWDSU; Legal Aid Society; Bronx Defenders; Brooklyn Defender Services; Regional Plan Association; New York Communities for Change; LatinoJustice PRLDEF; Make the Road-New York; Riders Alliance; and, the Community Service Society (CSS).
The campaign to provide half-priced transit fares to city residents with incomes at or below the federal poverty level was based on CSS research, which found that one in four low-income New Yorkers often could not afford subway and bus fares. CSS launched the Fair Fares campaign in April 2016, partnering with the Riders Alliance, a transit riders membership organization, and recruiting other advocacy groups as well as numerous elected officials.
Last June, after more than two years of advocacy and budget negotiations led by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Mayor de Blasio joined with City Council leaders to announce a funding agreement for the historic discount fare program. In the press release on the announcement, Mayor de Blasio said: “We have to make New York City a city that works for all 8.6 million New Yorkers, because at the end of the day, fairness will determine our future. Thanks to extraordinary activism, the city is committing over $100 million to help struggling New Yorkers access one of the most important transportation methods this city has to offer – a subway ride. Today, with the funding of Fair Fares we’re taking another big step toward making this the fairest big city in America.”
The Fair Fares program represents one of the City’s landmark progressive policy achievements. For similar initiatives, including Paid Sick Days and Universal Pre-K, city officials implemented an extensive outreach and information effort to educate the public on program details. The working poor, the unemployed searching for a job, economically struggling immigrants – regardless of their status--, college students and veterans—all those who expected to be able to start using half-fare MetroCards -- deserve to know when and how they will be able to take advantage of Fair Fares.
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. Visit us at www.cssny.org
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