Program was supposed to begin Jan 1 but lack of outreach leaves riders in the dark, while reports of City’s potential decision to require purchase of costly, 7- or 30-day passes prices out many eligible riders

800,000 New Yorkers live below the poverty line and should qualify, but imposing additional eligibility rules would reduce the impact

(New York, NY) — Today, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer was joined by the Community Service Society and Riders Alliance to demand the City get on track its plan to distribute discounted MetroCards to low-income New Yorkers under the new Fair Fares plan, which was supposed to begin January 1st. In December, Comptroller Stringer sent a letter to the Human Resources Administration spotlighting concerns that the program’s rules had yet to be detailed, with no clarity, for instance, on whether new immigrants would be eligible for the half-priced MetroCards. Now, two days after the program was supposed to officially launch, City Hall has yet to offer any details on how the program will be implemented, the timeline of any roll-out, or who will be eligible to participate. So far, it has been reported that the City may bar recipients from purchasing affordable, single-day cards, and will instead require that they purchase more costly 7-day or 30-day passes. Some 800,000 low-income New Yorkers live below the poverty line and were promised access to discounted MetroCards.

This program is critical for New Yorkers living in poverty. It will make a difference everyday to people throughout the five boroughs and we need to make sure the program is set up for the success New Yorkers deserve.

“A MetroCard should be a key to the city, not a barrier. But the City’s failure to adequately promote or implement the crucial Fair Fares program is preventing the New Yorkers struggling the most from getting the support they were promised,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “Now that we are past the deadline when half priced MetroCards were supposed to be available, we still have no idea what the administration’s timetable and roll-out plan will be for this crucial investment. If the City decides to undercut the promise of Fair Fares by limiting the discount to 7-day and 30-day passes, it will very likely lock out New Yorkers who can’t afford the upfront cost. This is unacceptable for our city, and we demand answers on behalf of all bus and subway riders.”

“When Mayor de Blasio first asked me to serve on the MTA Board as one of his appointees, I told him making the transit system more affordable for the city’s lowest income residents would be my top priority,” said David R. Jones, President and CEO of the Community Service Society. “Six months after agreeing to put money in the budget to fully fund the ‘Fair Fares’ program, the de Blasio Administration has still not released any details on how the City plans to reach out to the nearly 800,000 eligible New Yorkers who are eagerly awaiting the program. These include the unemployed, college students from poor families and the working poor — especially immigrants regardless of their immigration status who might not qualify for federal benefits, but could take advantage of Fair Fares. For those of us who advocated for the program, the lack of a concrete plan and timetable for implementation at this stage is extremely disappointing.”

Riders Alliance member Darlene Jackson from the Bronx said, “Last June, just a few blocks away I stood with proudly with the mayor to celebrate this historic agreement to fund Fair Fares. Low income New Yorkers who fought for this program are justifiably angry at the slow pace of the rollout and complete lack of information for how to sign up. We are calling on the mayor to keep his promise and implement the Fair Fares program so all New Yorkers making less than the federal poverty line can obtain half price MetroCards. Thank you Comptroller Stringer for standing with us today!”

Among the Comptroller’s concerns:

Many New Yorkers Could Be Excluded

  • Up to 800,000 low-income New Yorkers live below the poverty line and should ostensibly qualify for the discounted MetroCards, as was envisioned when the program was first approved by the Mayor and the City Council last June;
  • But the City has so far refused to say whether they plan to phase in implementation by limiting eligibility to certain groups, or what the timeline for the program’s roll-out will be. Any such restrictions could drastically limit the program’s promised reach.

Current Plan May Already Be Out of Reach to Thousands

  • The City’s reported plan to exclude single trip MetroCards from the program and force Fair-Fares riders to purchase more expensive 7-Day and 30-Day passes is fundamentally unfair, as many New Yorkers do not have the means to pay even the half-priced $16 per week or $60.50 per month all at once, up-front.
  • Data shows that very low-income New Yorkers tend to buy single-ride MetroCards. The last time the MTA did an in-depth survey of riders, it found that:
    • Households earning less than $25,000 bought 35 percent of all single-ride MetroCards and just 15 percent of all 30-Day MetroCards.
    • Households earning less than $50,000 purchased 66 percent of all single-ride tickets and just 39 percent of 30-Day Passes.

Public Outreach Has Been All But Non-Existent To Date

  • The City appears to have engaged in little or no outreach to ensure that eligible New Yorkers know of the newly established program.

While the City’s efforts in the past to promote programs like Universal Pre-K, IDNYC and paid family leave have been exemplary, Fair Fares has received no such attention.