Council Members Join Call For MTA Fare Reductions For Low-Income Riders

Photo by gofaceyourself
Photo by gofaceyourself

In response to looming subway and bus fare hikes, advocates are renewing their call to Mayor de Blasio to implement half-priced MetroCards for low-income riders.

The MTA has announced a two-year, 4 percent fare hike, taking effect in March 2017, which could include raising the price of a single ride to $3, along with more expensive unlimited and pay-per-ride MetroCards.

The Community Service Society of New York (CSS) and the Riders Alliance are pressing City Hall to establish a half-fare program for New Yorkers at or below the poverty line, comparable to what already exists for seniors and people with disabilities. They are joined by 28 City Council Members, including Brad Lander, Laurie Cumbo and Jumaane Williams, Public Advocate Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer, and social, economic, transit and labor justice organizations.

As many as 800,000 New Yorkers would be eligible for reduced fares under the proposal, says CSS. Families at or below the federal poverty line ($24,036 for a family of four) would save an estimated $700 annually on the cost of monthly MetroCards.

The cost of riding the city’s buses and subways has steadily increased over the years, outpacing earnings for lower-income households. Between 2007 and 2015, bus and subway fares rose by 45 percent — six times faster than average salaries in New York City, a September 2016 report from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found.

Most low-income riders do not benefit from discounts, like pre-tax transit benefits, that are available to middle and high-income commuters, advocates say. Unlimited monthly MetroCards, which are ultimately less expensive, require an upfront cost that can be cost prohibitive for riders living check to check.

Income-based fare discounts are already in place in San Francisco and Seattle, and are under consideration in Boston and Denver, according to CSS. Adopting such a program in New York, the most transit-dependent city in the nation, would have an immediate and positive impact, they argue.

Over half (58 percent) of low-income New Yorkers are reliant on buses and subways for their livelihoods, said CSS in a recent report. But 1 in 4 cannot afford the cost of a MetroCard.

“Our Mayor has a unique opportunity to help hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who are currently locked out of job opportunities, affordable housing, and community life in New York City,” said Rebecca Bailin, Campaign Manager at the Riders Alliance. “Other cities around the country are doing it—New York City should too.”

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  1. Would you believe that doing this might in effect actually save the city money at the expense of the MTA? The second most common reason why people end up in Rikers is MTA fair jumping. We had just over 12,000 arrests for fair jumping, with over 3,000 of those being sent to Rikers due to our laws with prior offenses, even minor.

    Each day, it costs taxpayers over $2.4 million to keep this rotation going and the only offense that surpasses that is drug related. Between policing costs and court expenses, It might cost the taxpayer as much as $1 billion a year to keep this going. This, just so you know is a method of bilking the tax payer by the NYPD for overtime hours as well as our prison system and the companies that serve it. Often I wonder if the public realizes the sham being provided to promote an image of law and order.

    These discounts are for those who really low income, and if this prevents even half of these incarcerations, it would be well worth its cost. Sometimes its wiser to give a helping hand over the back of the hand.

  2. So 3,000 of the 12,000 people were sent to Rikers because they actually got caught for prior crimes. Maybe we should increase the fares for low income people using your logic because we’ll end up with a safer community since fare jumping is a great way to catch career criminals

  3. Its only going to cost you significantly more and instead of safer communities, they’ll likely have a higher incidence of violence. How so? First, Rikers is only used for stints for less than a year and instead of any reform, they often become further engrossed in criminal activity inside the prison and then outside. Rikers is a prison for whom are not serving more than year sentences for major felonies. Those who are convicted of major felonies are sent to state facilities as space becomes available.

    Instead of dealing with ‘career criminals’, were emboldening them. If Rikers had any success, I might say otherwise, but Rikers was opened in 1935 to replace the utter failure of a prison we had on Roosevelt Island. When the moved the prison to Rikers, all the issues just followed along and we just keep slogging away at something that never worked.

    If they’re guilty of violent felonies, there is no doubt you have to incarcerate them for public safety. For turnstile jumping? I gave you an idea of its current costs. If it actually succeeded in reducing the population at Rikers, which I will say there is no guarantee of success, it very well could be a better option as we may have a shot at working with them before a crime of consequence.

    I’m willing to try going outside the cell box since a century of it hasn’t done much good and seemingly has led us to the highest incarceration rates of any modern western country.

  4. Sounds to me like we need tougher laws not weaker ones if people are coming out of jail worst than when they went in. Can Giuliani run again?

  5. They are generally minor non-violent crimes like shoplifting, mischief, etc. We have are three strikes rule that allows short term incarceration. As for Giuliani, he was just stuffing the mess that had already been created into a closet, handing us this immense bill of incarceration. Now on tougher laws, we had that more than a century ago and it just lead us to places like Rikers and the like. Rikers and its predecessor were created with tough on crime policy.

    Now I agree that once someone begins a path of committing numerous minor offenses its indicative to a possible lead up to violent offense. But we let it site and gestate and instead of working in strong reform programs, we toss them in box for was effectively criminal training. Maybe a solution is isolation from the problem instead. There are certainly those who could better comment on it than myself.

    Tough on crime is one thing, being an idiot with crime is another. Giuliani swept away the mistakes of others outside of public view, but never solving a damn thing. Maybe it was needed at the time since we haven’t reach a point where we do have an effective plan for it, but don’t consider this any form of success. Having the highest rate of incarceration and heading for more isn’t progress of any kind.

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