(Remarks given at a celebration of the formal inclusion of Fair Fares in the New York City Budget, Fulton Street Subway station, July 11, 2018.)
I’m Nancy Rankin, VP for Policy Research at Community Service Society, an organization that promotes upward mobility for low-income New Yorkers.
We’re here to celebrate a victory for Fair Fares, a powerful, poverty-fighting measure that will connect low-income New Yorkers to economic opportunity and make NY a more equitable and more affordable city.
Reduced fares have been tried in other places, but no where on the scale of New York City. New York will be the progressive leader, a model for other large cities like Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston.
How did this all start?
The push for half-price fares for New Yorkers in poverty grew out of Community Service Society’s research. In 2014, I put a question in our annual Unheard Third survey and found that far too many working age low-income New Yorkers were struggling every day just to afford bus and subway fares. Arrests for fare evasion criminalized poverty and put immigrants at risk of deportation.
At CSS we also knew the difference a MetroCard makes from the clients we serve. When we give them a monthly MetroCard, they tell us, “It’s a life changer”.
In April 2016, with the release of our groundbreaking report on the Transit Affordability Crisis, we launched our campaign for Fair Fares along with our partner, the Riders Alliance.
That initial group grew to a broad coalition of economic justice organizations, transit advocates, faith leaders, social service providers, public defenders labor unions including RWDSU, the Retail Action Project, Fast Food Justice, TWU, 32BJ and 1199.
And a long list of elected officials also joined the cause. Public Advocate Tish James was the first to stand with us and call for reduced fares back in March 2015. Comptroller Scott Stringer, Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, nearly every Council Member, Borough Presidents especially Ruben Diaz, Gale Brewer and Eric Adams, three district attorneys, and most importantly the vast majority of New Yorkers.
Thanks to all our coalition partners, especially Riders Alliance, and to the many low-income New Yorkers like Shani, who spoke up, sharing their personal stories and struggles.
And thanks to my CSS colleagues, our leader David Jones and especially economist Harold Stolper who figured out how much it would cost.
But we wouldn’t be celebrating here today without an outstanding leader and champion of economic justice, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. We thank him and the Council for making Fair Fares a top budget priority.
Mr. Speaker, you took this on and you made this happen. Your passionate commitment and persistence are changing our city for the better.
And we thank the Mayor for taking this important step to make New York City truly the fairest city in America. You challenged us with your words and now you are making it a reality.
Fair Fares will help all New Yorkers reach their destinations. In New York City you will now be able to take the train from poverty to a better future.