BP Diaz, transit and community activists blast de Blasio administration for failing to include $200 million in FY 2019 budget to provide transit relief for the working poor
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and advocates from across the city have come together to rebuke Mayor Bill de Blasio for failing to include funding for “fair fares” in his $88.67 billion Preliminary Budget for City Fiscal Year 2019.
“For a relatively small amount of funding the administration could provide the working poor with real financial relief by making ‘fair fares’ a reality,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “For $200 million we could make a significant impact on the everyday lives of nearly 800,000 New Yorkers – people from every corner of this city who desperately need a helping hand. The de Blasio administration must add the funding for ‘fair fares’ to its budget.”
The “fair fares” proposal is anti-poverty effort aimed at addressing transit affordability, and would fund half-price transit fares for the economically disadvantaged. Recent data from Community Service Society’s 2017 Unheard Third found that one in four poor, working-age New Yorkers are often unable to afford subway and bus fares.
The survey also found that 20 percent of working-age New York City residents living below the poverty line have been unable to run important errands due to subway fares, and that 31 percent could not look for or take a job further away from where they live because of the high cost of transit.
“As we debate the future of our transit system and how it will be funded, we cannot lose sight of the needs of the working poor. We should 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. A ‘fair fares’ program will do just that, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the City Council and advocates all over the five boroughs to make real relief for the working poor a reality,” said Borough President Diaz.
“Whether it’s a millionaires’ tax or a congestion pricing plan, we need a recurring source of revenue to fix our subway system and in the process make transit fares affordable for our lowest income residents,” said David. R. Jones, President and CEO of the Community Service Society and MTA Board Member. “These are both sound progressive ideas, but neither will provide the immediate relief that struggling New Yorkers need today to get to work and get ahead. The mayor should move forward and launch a half-priced “Fair Fares” program and fund it in the City budget. By not doing so, the mayor would’ve missed an opportunity to prove that his pronouncements about creating a fairer city were not just political rhetoric.”
“Mayor de Blasio ran on the campaign story of a Tale of Two Cities, but our City has been divided by the unaffordable cost of transportation. A budget is a moral document and this administration needs to include a plan that will allow New Yorkers living at or below the poverty line the ability to remain mobile. Mayor de Blasio does not need action from Albany to right this wrong. We need a break for those who need it most, and that means including Fair fares into the 2019 budget,” said Bertha Lewis, President and Founder of The Black Institute.
“Not too long ago, I was unemployed. Every week, just to get to job interviews, I had to make tough choices. I would either skip buying groceries to pay for my MetroCard or I would I walk long distances to get to where I needed to go. Now that I am employed as a career mentor for the homeless, I make sure to swipe fellow New Yorkers in whenever I have a chance. But struggling New Yorkers shouldn’t have to beg or sacrifice necessities just to get ahead. New Yorkers need Fair Fares now,” said Janice Tosto, Riders Alliance member and resident of Soundview in the Bronx.
“As the main source of transit for families in New York City, mass transit should be accessible to all. Right now, transit riders that are too poor to afford a subway ride to work are at risk of arrest—and for many immigrants at risk of deportation—just because they cannot afford a train ride. This must end. Mass transit should be made available to all. Fair Fares needs to be funded immediately—in the city budget—and the Mayor should hold to his campaign promise to end the Tale of Two Cities,” said Jonathan Westin, Executive Director, New York Communities for Change.
“Fair Fares is an important part of making our City more affordable for everyone. As the City tries to plan for potential reductions in federal funding, they should look to new revenue streams, including ones like congestion pricing to pay for progressive and needed programs like Fair Fares,” said Pierina Sanchez, New York Director for Regional Plan Association.
“Fair Fares will help hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers access good jobs, affordable housing, and all the opportunities New York has to offer its residents,” said Nick Sifuentes, Executive Director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “The best way to make Fair Fares a reality is for it to be included in the City’s budget, and we hope the Mayor and City Council will make Fair Fares a reality in this year’s budget negotiations.”
“Staten Islanders are the most disadvantaged when it comes to public transportation options. Offering fare relief to the overburdened working class of Staten Island will only help our local economy and create a platform for workers to find employment that can help lift them out of poverty,” said Steve Lawton, co-founder of Sustainable Staten Island.
“In New York City, accessing mass transit for our participants is as fundamental to daily life as clean air and water. They must attend our programs, get to court, jobs or school,” said David Condliffe, executive director of the Center for Community Alternatives.
“Almost a year ago, Mayor de Blasio admitted that our affordability crisis threatened the very soul of our City. This crisis is felt every time a New Yorker swipes their MetroCard as year after year the price of a single ride increases. Low-income, working people are the lifeblood of this city, but transportation too often serves as a barrier to economic opportunity. No one should have to decide between buying a MetroCard or paying their rent. We need a commitment to obtain attainable solutions for New Yorkers and have transit access for all,” said Afua Atta-Mensah, Esq., Executive Director, Community Voices Heard.
“Public transportation literally connects us to one another. It is a tangible demonstration of NYC’s commitment to being more just, more inclusive and more compassionate. These turbulent times underscore the collective duty to protect each other. These progressive values are represented by “Fair Fares.” I applaud the continued support of the elderly, the young and the disabled. However, it is disappointing to see an abdication of our values by both the Mayor and the Council to not include the economically disadvantaged,” said Vaughn Taylor-Akutagawa, Executive Director of Gay Men of African Descent.