December 13, 2016
I testify here today in opposition to the proposed four percent fare hike the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has proposed for MetroCard users in its forthcoming budget.
This 25-cent fare hike, which would raise the base fare of a bus or subway trip from $2.75 to $3, may not seem like much to the average observer. However, for far too many New Yorkers—from our students to our seniors and everyone in between—the spare change in one’s pocket can be the difference feeding one’s family, paying one’s rent or, in this case, getting to work, school or a doctor’s appointment.
Of course, I understand that the MTA has critical funding needs, and must find the money to keep our region’s transit system moving somewhere. However, this fare hike will disproportionally affect those commuters who can least afford it.
Instead of simply raising them, we should instead consider developing a more nuanced system of collecting fares—a system that takes into account a commuter’s means, and provides a discount to those New Yorkers who need it the most.
In April, a report from the poverty advocacy organization Community Service Society (CSS) found that more than 1 in 4 poor New Yorkers could not afford their transit fare. The same report also found that many of those same New Yorkers had missed important appointments, such as doctor visits or even work, due to the inability to pay their subway or bus fare.
CSS has also noted that, for more than 300,000 working poor New Yorkers, transit expenses often exceed 10 percent of their family budgets. This cost places a real strain on the mobility, both physical and social, of our most economically disadvantaged residents.
We have a way to fix this dire situation. We can provide real relief at the turnstiles. We have a way to give riders a break.
City Hall must support the “Transit for All” campaign, which seeks to give low-income New Yorkers real relief from rising transit fares. For an estimated $200 million in funding, we can provide half-price MetroCards to every New Yorker living at or below the federal poverty line.
CSS has found that this half-fare discount program would save those who take advantage of it as much as $700 a year off the cost of 12 monthly passes for the roughly 800,000 adults who would be eligible for the discount. It is estimated that roughly 360,000 riders would take advantage of this program.
$700 per year is a considerable amount of money, especially for the poorest among us. We must set the example for the rest of the nation by embracing this discount program and offering a helping hand to those who need it the most.
For a relatively small investment, considering the size of the overall city budget, we can make the lives of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers appreciably better.
I join with CSS, the Riders Alliance and so many others in support of the “Transit for All” campaign, and I urge this administration to join us in the push for a fair fare.