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Photo via Twitter/@NYCHRA
Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks (podium) speaks about the Fair Fares program Monday as (from left to right) City Councilman Carlos Menchaca, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, with transit advocates, look on.

New Yorkers in need once again have the opportunity to sign up for half-priced MetroCards for the “Fair Fares” program.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and local elected officials are encouraging people to enroll in the initiative after a late 2019 expansion of eligibility criteria.

The administration is boasting that 107,000 have enrolled in the program in its first year and that now CUNY students, student veterans, and NYCHA residents who meet other standards can sign up for a MetroCard with an “FF” on the back.

The program has grown since it was last discussed in October 2019, at which point only 76,000 New Yorkers were enrolled and city Comptroller Scott Stringer criticized the program as not accessible enough as only 15 percent of subway riders pay weekly or monthly unlimited.

“New Yorkers living in poverty make difficult choices daily about how to spend money, sometimes sacrificing basic necessities like warm boots to pay for transportation costs,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson said Monday. “Today, we are attempting to ease their burden by making half-priced MetroCards available to all residents who meet the federal poverty threshold. Already, more than 100,000 New Yorkers have enrolled in Fair Fares but we know so many more people can benefit from this program. I urge anyone who is eligible to sign up.”

Councilman Ydanis Rodríguez, who chairs the Transportation Committee, said that while Fair Fares could reach more than 800,000 people this year, more expansion is needed.

“Today, over 800,000 people will have the opportunity to apply for 50 percent reduced fare,” Rodríguez said. “We must ensure that the New York City Transit is affordable, accessible, and reliable to all. We must continue expanding the Fair Fares programs reach, ensuring that it covers every working-class family in New York City.”

Chief Operating Officer of the MTA Mario Peloquin said expansion of the Fair Fares is a fitting supplement to programs the state agency already has in place to discount senior citizens or offer free Metro-Cards to students.

“The MTA stands ready to assist the City in any way possible to ensure New Yorkers living below the poverty line have access to half-price transit services,” Peloquin said. “The MTA is committed to providing the most affordable transportation options possible to all New Yorkers who rely on us to get where they need to go, including work, doctors, school, and more.”

Although the program is growing and has gotten over the struggles of its early days, such as disorganization, it still offers major obstacles for not only getting a Fair Fares card but also for people already accepted.

Some riders have complained about the difficulty of replacing cards they have lost such as two month wait periods.

But the month of December saw outreach from the city in the form of targeted advertisements in ZIP Codes where concentrations of eligible New Yorkers live, the speaker’s office said.

This story first appeared on amny.com.

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