Fighters for the Fair Fare initiative to secure half-priced MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers strengthened their resolve Wednesday as the Metropolitan Transit Authority announced plans to increase fares by 25 cents early next year.
Advocates argue that the brunt of bus and subway fare increases fall on the city’s low-income residents who might forego food, their education, looking for a job and appreciating what the city has to offer because they can’t pay a fare. About 800,000 New Yorkers would be eligible for reduced fares, according to research from the Community Service Society. Each person could save around $700 a year.
“As the city gets more expensive, if we can’t find ways to make it more affordable, we are going to lose the diversity of NYC,” Fair Fares campaign manager Rebecca Bailin told Metro.
The campaign is not asking the MTA, which is not a government agency, to pay for the fare reduction; rather, it’s appealing to Mayor Bill de Blasio to appropriate an estimated $200 million a year for the reduction in his upcoming budget.
Currently, the MTA provides half-price MetroCards to seniors over 65 and to the disabled, and partners in programs for school children.
MTA spokesperson Beth De Falco said that “it would make more sense for the city to administer that type of program,” because it’s more equipped to determine income eligibility.
The MTA intends to follow through with one of two proposals that would take effect in March of next year. Plan A would be a 25-cent increase, from $2.75 to $3, that includes a bigger, 16 percent bonus on purchases. Plan B would be to maintain the current price, but to decrease the current purchase bonus from 11 percent to 5 percent.
The proposals will be open for public discussion in a series of meetings throughout the city to take place in December.
De Falco defends the MTA’s fare hike — they’re been scheduled for every other year since 2009 — as necessary to guarantee safe and reliable round-the-clock service. And compared to other cities such as Washington which determines its fares by zone, NYC is a bargain, she said.
“If you want to go from the Bronx to Coney Island it will only cost you $2.75,” she said, referring to the current fare.
De Falco also argues that if the MTA were to provide the discount, it wouldn’t be able to limit it to just New York City residents, as service on LIRR and Metro North extends to many other cities.
Fair Fare proponents include 28 city council members, Public Advocate Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer and 30 social, economic, labor and transit organizations.
“My concern is that public transportation remains accessible to the public,” Bailin said.