BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Skyscrapers, standard-of-living, big businesses and transportation are only some of what New York City is known for, all having one thing in common – it’s expensive. Given the “opportunity” the city provides, one would assume that these necessities would be easily assessable and affordable to those that live here.
Wednesday morning, Community Service Society, New York’s premier anti-poverty organization, and the Rider’s Alliance, New York’s grassroots membership organization of bus and subway riders, announced the start of their “Fair Fares” campaign, calling for half-price bus and subway fares for low-income New Yorkers.
The initiative already has the support of 30 elected officials from across New York City and 29 prominent advocacy legal, labor and community-based groups agreeing to push for economic leniency for households earning below the $24,036 Federal Poverty Level and spend about $700 a year on public transportation.
The two groups also released a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio urging him to include funding in his Fiscal Year 2018 Executive Budget for a plan that would offer half-priced MetroCards to New Yorkers between 18 and 64 years of age living in households below the FPL.
“Making the city a more equitable place to live and work starts with ensuring that our vast public transportation system is both affordable and accessible to all New Yorkers, and not just the economically-better off,” said CSS President and CEO David R. Jones. “So today we call on the mayor to take action that is consistent with his pledge to address social inequities in our city, and recognize that public transportation is essential in the daily lives of New Yorkers trying to get to work, school and access economic opportunities across the city. It’s time we made it more viable for those who need it the most.”
Of the 15.3 million people living in New York City, four of every five working commuters depend on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority as a means of getting to and from work. Currently, standard fare costs $2.75, not including the $1 additional fee to purchase a card. A person working 40 hours a week is projected to spend over $30 a week solely on transportation. Unfortunately, 15.4 percent of the New York City population is living in poverty, making less than $25,000 annually.
In addition to the signatures from members of CSS, the Rider’s Alliance, and City Council members, Public Advocate Letitia James, City Comptroller Scott Stringer and 27 organizations, including the Straphangers Campaign, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Transit Workers Union, Working Families, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and Make the Road-NY all joined the cause.
“In too many neighborhoods across New York City, people are struggling to make ends meet while finding ways to simply have the money to commute to work every day,” said Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. “Residents in low income communities may be forced to travel hours to get to work and we as a city need to do more to help ease their burden. Fair Fares will help families put food on the table and spend money at local businesses more often. As the most transit-dependent and Progressive city in the nation, this would be a great step toward helping to lift up our low-income New Yorkers.”
According to a 2016 CSS report, “The Transit Affordability Crisis; How Reduced MTA Fares Can Help Low-Income New Yorkers Move Ahead,” a third of working-age, poor New Yorkers say they did not take a job or look for jobs father from where they live because of the cost of a MetroCard.
“Subway fare is anything but fair for struggling New Yorkers, and more benefits should be available for our city’s lower-income residents,” said Councilman Rory I. Lancman (D-Hillcrest).
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or firstname.lastname@example.org