Riders create Fair Fares mosaic to convince mayor to fund half-priced MetroCards for low-income New York City residents

Brooklyn, NY –  Today, as the MetroCard fare hike takes effect, members of the Fair Fares coalition rallied outside of the Barclays Center, calling on Mayor de Blasio to ease the burden on low-income New Yorkers by amending his proposed 2018 city budget to include funding for half-priced MetroCards for New Yorkers below the poverty line.

After the rally, grassroots activists from the Riders Alliance headed onto the subway platform to hold a “Subway Fare-apy” session where activists asked other subway riders to write on colorful post-it notes on a signboard, creating a mosaic illustrating how they and their fellow New Yorkers could benefit from Fair Fares.

Statements such as: “Poor people shouldn’t have to sacrifice just to get to work,” “Fares are raised but our paychecks are not,” and “I shouldn’t have to swipe people in,” and “We need a tale of one , united, city”, were written on the mosaic, which will be shared with the Mayor.

The Fair Fares Coalition is urging the Mayor to amend his proposed City budget for Fiscal Year 2018 to include funding for half-price MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers. Although the mayor’s preliminary budget, released in January, did not include funding for Fair Fares, support for the proposal continues to grow among members of the New York City Council. 37 members are now signed on. The newest supporters include: Council Member Mark Treyger (Brooklyn), Council Member Eric Ulrich (Queens), Council Member Mathieu Eugene (Brooklyn), Council Member Darlene Mealy (Brooklyn), and Council Member Fernando Cabrera (Bronx) The Fair Fares coalition also has the support of Public Advocate Letitia James, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, and Borough Presidents Eric Adams (Brooklyn), Gale Brewer (Manhattan), Ruben Diaz JR (Bronx) and Melinda Katz (Queens) as well as 48 organizations.

In January of this year, the MTA Board voted in favor of a fare hike. The Board voted to keep the base bus and subway fare at $2.75, but to decrease the value of the MetroCard bonus and increase the cost of seven and 30-day monthly passes, making fares more expensive overall.  That will put a further strain on the budgets of the working poor, many of whom already spend over 10 percent of their family budgets on transit.

New York City Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez said, “As I said before, I will keep fighting for Fair Fares to be in the FY18 budget because MetroCard costs are “blocking” many New Yorkers. We have friends, families, and that neighbors must decline to go to a job opportunity, school, cultural experiences, a doctor appointments, and more, just for the simple fact that they can’t afford to buy a MetroCard. It is our obligation to provide half-priced MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers.”

Monica Martineza Riders Alliance member from the Bronx, said, “My husband and I struggle to get by. I have three kids which means that I rely on the subway and bus to attend all of their school functions. I have to budget very carefully to make sure I have the money to attend PTA meetings, and sometimes I even skip meals or walk one of my kids to a doctor’s appointment because we can’t afford the train or the bus. Fair Fares could really help us.”

According to the CSS report The Transit Affordability Crisis, 58 percent of poor New Yorkers are reliant on buses and subways for their livelihoods. The cost of riding the city’s buses and subways has steadily increased over the years, proportionately outpacing earnings for the city’s lower-income households. For example, between 2007 and 2015, bus and subway fares rose by 45 percent—six times faster than average salaries in New York City, according to a September 2016 report from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

“We see half-price MetroCards for the lowest-income New Yorkers as the next step the mayor should take in his efforts to create a more equitable city, where all New Yorkers have access to economic opportunities,” said David R. Jones, President and CEO of Community Service Society. “The City already subsidizes fares for seniors and students, so there is ample precedent for the city to move ahead, so that all New Yorkers can move ahead.”

“When every dollar counts, the burden of additional transportation costs is detrimental to struggling New Yorkers. With fares increasing today, it is more important than ever that the Administration fund half-priced MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers. The stability and economic diversity of our City depend on New Yorkers being able to utilize our public transportation system”, said Public Advocate Letitia James.

Bronx Borough President Eric Adams said, “The last thing low-income New Yorkers, whose pockets have already been stretched beyond the pale, want to hear is that another MetroCard fare hike is on the way. Yet, that is the reality that far too many of our neighbors are facing, a further burden to taxpaying families who are struggling to make ends meet. I ask the City, the State — everybody — to come together and make Fair Fares funding a reality.”

Access to our buses and subways isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “The cost of basic mobility is soaring, and that’s unjust. Both the city and the state need to be willing to act to make sure low-income New Yorkers can afford to get around our city.”

“Considering the rising cost of public transportation that is a huge burden on our most needy communities, I am a big advocate for the City to fund half-priced MetroCards to help low-income New Yorkers,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “I understand the MTA has critical funding needs. However, fare hike will hurts those commuters who least can afford it. Considering the size of the overall city budget, the City should find ways to provide real cost-of-living relief to the city’s working poor.  We have an opportunity to do right by our five boroughs, making a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, easing a huge burden for low-income New Yorkers.”

Council Member Fernando Cabrera said, “It’s way past time for the MTA to address transit unaffordability and inequality of access.  Low income New Yorkers depend on public transit more than any other group and use a higher proportion of family income for MetroCards.  The high cost of public transit causes sick people to miss medical appointments; low income CUNY students to miss classes; arrests of people asking for “swipes;” and puts out of school youth into contact with law enforcement for turnstile jumping.  I have sponsored legislation calling on the MTA to remedy this situation, and I will continue to advocate for fair fares.”

Council Member Elizabeth S. Crowley said, “For far too many New Yorkers it is getting harder and harder to afford taking the subway or buses. People depend on these crucial everyday services to fuel their lives, and it should not be a burden to just get to work, pick up your child, or go home for the day. This is why it is I support half-priced MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers.”

“The MTA fare hikes are too high of a price for everyday New Yorkers to pay for their daily commutes to work, school, house of worship, or childcare center. We cannot impose an additional financial strain on families and impede their lifestyle. Our transit system must remain affordable, accessible, and reliable for all,” said Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo.

“Access to our subways and buses should never be a barrier for low-income New Yorker’s who have so much to gain from the opportunity of mobility”said NYC Council Member Rafael Espinal, Chair of the Committee on Consumer Affairs. “I am proud to stand with this coalition in urging NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio to include funding for half priced MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers in the FY18 budget.”

Council Member Vincent Gentile said, “In this City we work hard to ensure that low-income New Yorkers have access to affordable housing, food banks and health insurance. Yet, our public transportation system has not been a part of this equation. As the MTA fare hike goes into effect today, the importance of Fair Fares has reached new heights. Reduced fares would enable those in need to travel to that job interview, get to that professional training class or go to the public library at an affordable cost. Fair Fares would simply give our most vulnerable individuals a better opportunity to succeed.”

Council Member David Greenfield said, “I am proud to be a strong supporter of the Fair Fares Initiative. As the MTA fare hike goes into effect this weekend, I can think of no other initiative in the city that would do more to help low-income New Yorkers get to work, get to school, and get to their appointments on time. This initiative would help lower the cost of basic transportation for low income communities across New York City that overwhelmingly rely on public transportation. When we talk about equity, the most basic and fundamental equity in our city is transportation equity. Because you can’t get out of poverty if you can’t get to your job.”

“Too many New Yorkers have a tough enough time making ends meet amid higher rents and a cost of living that keeps rising every day,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “We need Fair Fares so that our hardest hit citizens can finally have some relief. I thank the Community Service Society, Riders Alliance and all my fellow elected officials and advocates who are on the front lines of this crucial issue.”

“Within New York City lies the hopes and dreams of many working families for better jobs, outstanding schools and access to quality healthcare.  Unfortunately one out of four working-age New Yorkers cannot afford current bus and subway fares to access all that our great City has to offer.  Now the MTA is preparing to hike up fares again, making the dream of attaining  middle class status  that much harder to achieve.  I urge Mayor de Blasio to hear the voices of our hard working New Yorkers and take measures to make transit affordable for all our City’s residents by including funding in the NYC budget for half-priced Metrocards,” said Council Member Karen Koslowitz.

Council Member Rory Lancman said, “If the Mayor is serious about combating the affordability crisis in this City, then he must take action to make fair fares a reality. Too many New Yorkers today are forced to choose between putting food on the table and swiping their MetroCard — and the latest MTA fare hike will make the affordability problem even worse. Making public transportation more affordable for low-income New Yorkers will open the doors of opportunity and make it easier for people to make ends meet.”

Council Member Darlene Mealy said, “I am in full support of the Fair Fares initiative because it has become many New Yorkers’ realities. It hits home due to the financial affects to low and middle class constituents, along with fixed-incomed senior residents on their daily travels to and from work, school, and daily errands. Despite a person’s income, the financial decision of affording utilities, grocery and family-care expenses ahead of transit fare cost should not become a burden or a sacrifice.”

Council Member Carlos Menchaca said, “Low-income New Yorkers can’t afford today’s ever rising transit fares. When families can’t afford transit they miss employment, educational resources, access to healthcare and other essential services. Long ago, New York recognized the public benefits of offering reduced fares to seniors, students and people with disabilities.  People shouldn’t be forced to choose between food, rent, medicine and transportation. Others cities offer fare discounts for the low-income residents who rely most on public transit.  New York should too. It isn’t public transit if the public can’t afford the fare.”

Council Member Antonio Reyonso said, “Low-income New Yorkers are already struggling with rising prices for rent, food, and other essentials. Federal cuts to benefits programs that may be on the way will only make things harder. Accessing public transportation is crucial for working people and their families, and with today’s fare hike, getting to work and school becomes even more difficult.  The Fair Fares proposal is something we can do locally to make sure that everyone can get where they need to go without sacrificing other necessities.”

“As New Yorkers prepare for yet another MTA fare hike, it is important to remember all of the people who are struggling to make ends meet while finding ways to simply have the money to commute to work every day,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus (D-Far Rockaway). “Residents in low-income communities in the outer boroughs are often forced to endure twice the travel time of an average commuter 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.”

Council Member Eric Ulrich said, “Straphangers get more bang for their buck with a monthly MetroCard, but the reality is that the majority of low-income New Yorkers do not have the means to shell out the money upfront. No one should ever have to should ever have to choose between groceries and a $121 monthly pass. I am proud to support this initiative and urge the MTA to do more for the New Yorkers who need it the most.”