Let me start by thanking Speaker Corey Johnson for championing Fair Fares.
He made half-price fares for low-income New Yorkers a budget priority, fought for it and delivered it! The Council achieved an historic budget agreement to fully fund Fair Fares with a commitment of $106 million for the first six months. The money was put in the budget for this specific purpose.
Now it is up to the Mayor to make good on his side of the bargain, to make good on his promise and deliver a program we can all be proud of. One that will help all low-income New Yorkers, who we know from our research are struggling every day just to afford bus and subway fares they need to get to work, classes and care for their families.
It is good to see the Mayor taking this first step towards providing half-price MetroCards for all New Yorkers below the federal poverty level.
And today the Mayor has reaffirmed his commitment to rolling out the full program and reaching all New Yorkers in need of this essential transit discount.
But talk doesn’t get you through the turnstile.
It takes a process that makes it easy for people to sign up and get their card.
It takes an extensive outreach effort – like was done for Pre-K and paid sick days—to let people know about it, and how to apply.
And it takes a concrete timeline that doesn’t leave hundreds of thousands of poor people waiting for a program that is coming at some unspecified time in the distant future.
New Yorkers need reduced fares now, especially with the prospect of another fare hike in March, that could well bring a round-trip ride to $6. New Yorkers need to get to work today, not next year. They need the substantial savings Fair Fares will provide to pay the rent, so they don’t become tomorrow’s homeless.
So, while we are glad that some New Yorkers will soon be able to take advantage of more affordable subway and bus fares, we are concerned about who is left waiting:
- The working poor, who are not already known to HRA, many of whom are immigrants who either don’t qualify for federal benefits or are too fearful to apply in the age of Trump;
- CUNY students from low-income families who commute to classes;
- The unemployed headed to a job interview.
The Mayor’s initial rollout only covers employed recipients of public benefits.
We want to see the timeline for the full program that was promised to New Yorkers last June.
Progressive rhetoric is not enough to confront the deep inequities in our city. Poor New Yorkers are counting on the mayor for the half-fare MetroCards they expected this month. Mayor de Blasio has pledged to make New York the fairest big city in the nation. Now he needs to deliver on those words.