As Fares Rise, Advocates Press City Hall for MetroCard Relief for Low-Income New Yorkers

Riders Alliance member Monica Martinez speaks alongside elected officials yesterday. Photo: David Meyer
Riders Alliance member Monica Martinez speaks alongside elected officials yesterday. Photo: David Meyer

As MTA fares went up yesterday, straphangers and elected officials rallied outside Atlantic Terminal yesterday to bring them down for low-income New Yorkers.

The “Fair Fares” coalition is calling on Mayor de Blasio to fund half-priced MetroCards for the 800,000 New Yorkers living below the federal poverty line. While the single-ride cost is staying flat at $2.75, dollars won’t stretch as far as they used to for anyone who buys multiple rides at a time — the “bonus” on multi-ride purchases is shrinking, and weekly and monthly passes are getting more expensive.

Image: Community Service Society/Riders Alliance
Image: Community Service Society/Riders Alliance

The discount fare program would cost $212 million annually, according to Riders Alliance and the Community Service Society annually, and save someone who buys monthly MetroCards about $700 a year.

“I often skip meals so I have enough cash in hand to make sure I get back,” said Riders Alliance member Monica Martinez. “My family and all low-income families in New York really need this half-priced MetroCard.”

The Fair Fares campaign has picked up support from more than two-thirds of the City Council. While Mayor de Blasio has expressed support for the concept, he has declined to fund it, arguing that the MTA is the state’s responsibility.

Speakers at the rally countered that the city has a distinct interest in keeping fares affordable for low-income residents.“The city should be the one leading this effort,” said City Council transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez. “This is money that will go back to the community.”

Advocates say the city could save $50 million currently spent adjudicating fare evasion, the top NYPD arrest in 2015.

In addition to Rodriguez, council members Carlos Menchaca and Mathieu Eugene spoke yesterday, as well as Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Assembly Member Felix Ortiz.

“The conversation about Fair Fares is a fair conversation to have,” said Menchaca. “Public transit is not public if the public can’t afford it. This is the kind of concept that drives the future of this incredible city, and we cannot stop short.”