It’s time for fair fares.
More than half of the City Council — 35 members, including eight from Queens — have asked City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Finance Chairman Daniel Dromm to make commuting easier for low-income New Yorkers with discounted MetroCards.
The Council members sent a letter to Johnson and Dromm — a city councilman in western Queens — in response to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s preliminary FY 2019 budget asking them to make a change as commuting costs continue to rise.
“We write to support the inclusion of discount MetroCards for New Yorkers below the poverty line, or Fair Fares, in the Council’s response to Mayor de Blasio’s preliminary fiscal year 2019 budget,” the letter reads. “Access to our subways and buses is a basic economic necessity for New Yorkers, who rely on transit to get to work, school, doctors’ visits, and essential services. Yet a report by the Community Service Society found that one in four low-income, working-age New Yorkers cannot afford a MetroCard.”
What good is a public transportation system if commuters can’t afford to take advantage of it?
We should follow the lead of our Council members — including Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica), Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), Barry Grodenchik (Oakland Gardens), Peter Koo (D-Flushing), Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) — and push for fairer fares.
The mayor stated in his State of the City address that he wanted New York to become one of the “fairest” cities in the nation. Fair can mean several things. In this case, it should mean reasonable commuting fares that are affordable for everyone, including low-income New Yorkers.
This push should not come as a surprise to de Blasio. In fact, he proposed putting $250 million on the table for half-priced MetroCards for 800,000 New Yorkers in 2017. But he made it contingent on the passing of his millionaires tax, which was designed to fund the MTAfor repairs and fare reduction. It needs to go through Albany for approval, while the fair fares initiative would not.
The two movements shouldn’t go hand-in-hand. You can move ahead with the discounted MetroCard plan without the millionaires tax. And if the city can’t fund this on its own, then there should be a greater effort made to obtain funding.
The speaker has supported fair fares in the past and should continue to do so. Maybe that would pressure de Blasio to take action sooner rather than later, taking a burden off hardworking commuters who can’t afford regularly priced MetroCards.
It’s a move that’s been long overdue.