By Mark Hallum
Mayor Bill de Blasio pleased transit advocates Monday by including Fair Fares, a half-priced MetroCard for low-income New Yorkers, in the upcoming city budget.
Up to $106 million from the Fiscal Year 2019 city budget will go toward providing reduced fares to people from households making less than $25,000 for a family of four.
“We need a city if someone strives to better themselves and get an education for their future that they can actually afford to get on the subway and get to that school, right? We need a city where a parent who’s making sure that their child gets the very best education can actually afford to take their child to school on the subway. That’s what we are going to work for,” de Blasio said. “The people of New York City pay and pay and pay for the MTA. It’s time for the state to come up with a real solution for the MTA and that’s what we are going to fight for next.”
Riders Alliance, the transit advocate group, has been rallying for the city to adopt Fair Fares since April 2016 and celebrated the allocation of $106 million, although the original call was for $220 million in funds for the program.
“The Fair Fares program is a huge achievement, not only for the hundreds of thousands of people who will benefit directly but for every New Yorker who cares about living in a fair and inclusive community. In our city, geographic mobility is economic mobility, too,” Riders Alliance Executive Director John Raskin said. “New Yorkers can get ahead, but only if they can get around. For too long, our transit system has been priced out of reach for the New Yorkers who need it most, and our entire city has suffered as a result. Fair Fares is an enormous step toward addressing that problem.”
Carl Stubbs, a community leader at VOCAL-NY, which advocates for low-income people affected by HIV/AIDS, drugs, mass incarceration and homelessness, said the program will also help him get to doctors’ appointments and stay connected with his family.
“Everyone should have access to public transportation. I live in Flushing, Queens, and many of my neighbors are struggling just to get by. New York City is a big place and I have to use the train to get around. I actually already have a discounted MetroCard that I receive because of my disability. It’s helped me and more people should have access to this benefit. I use the train and buses to go to doctors’ appointments, visit my daughter and grandkids in the Bronx and to go to VOCAL-NY to build power for change. If it wasn’t for my reduced fare MetroCard, I wouldn’t be able to do any of these things,” Stubbs said.
City Council Speaker Cory Johnson (D-Manhattan) supported the plan alongside City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest).
“Fair Fares will open up this city to New Yorkers living in poverty and allow them to take advantage of professional and educational opportunities that would otherwise be closed to them. This is an investment in our friends and neighbors who struggle between paying the rent and commuting to work,” Johnson said.
The budget is expected to be passed in the coming week.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall