Jeff Maclin, Community Service Society
(212) 614-5538 (office), (718) 309-2346 (cell)
Rebecca Bailin, Riders Alliance
Today, the New York City Council voted in support of the City budget for Fiscal Year 2018. That budget did not include the City Council’s proposal to spend $50 million (out of the city’s $85 billion municipal budget) to fund a half-price transit fare program for New York City residents in deep poverty.
Despite overwhelming support from 40 Council Members, city leaders, more than 50 community groups, and polling data showing broad public support, Mayor de Blasio declined to fund the proposal in his final budget.
In response, the Fair Fares coalition released the following statement:
“Today’s budget outcome is not the end of Fair Fares. Rather, it marks the beginning of an effort to ramp up our push to make sure that almost a million New Yorkers have access to this important anti-poverty initiative. We will continue to fight and make it clear to the mayor that Fair Fares is not going away.
For New York City’s low-income residents -- a quarter of whom say they often cannot afford the cost of riding the buses and subways – there was great hope that our equity-conscious mayor would take on transit affordability in the city budget with the same fervor he has shown for other income inequality issues.
Fair Fares is not a subsidy for the MTA, it is a subsidy for New York City’s poorest residents. The mayor’s hard line on reduced fares for those in greatest need contradicts the findings of his own report, which says commuting costs are pushing low-wage workers into poverty. The Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity found that commuting costs raise the poverty rate by 2.2 percentage points, and in fact have a greater impact on pushing people into poverty than even payroll taxes or anything else except out-of-pocket medical expenses, which raise the poverty rate by 2.8 percentage points.
Our advocacy has exposed how aggressive policing combines with unaffordable fares to criminalize poverty. This year, fare evasion arrests are on pace to reach 24,000. Ninety percent of those arrested are black or Latino. Arrests of immigrants could put them at risk of deportation for lack of $2.75 in their pockets. Rather than punishing people for being poor or imposing fines they cannot pay, why not use our resources to help make public transit affordable?
We have put together a broad coalition that is committed to this effort. With their support and that of our allies in the City Council among other city elected officials, we will continue to fight and advocate for half-price fares for the lowest income New Yorkers so that our public transit system becomes a gateway to economic opportunity, not a barrier. “
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.