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Discounted MetroCards, Citi Bike funds proposed by City Council

Funding for half-fare MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers

Funding for half-fare MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers was included in the City Council's budget response Tuesday, April 4, 2017. Photo Credit: iStock

The City Council has proposed millions in funding toward subsidized MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers and, for the first time, a publicly-financed Citi Bike expansion.

The spending, outlined in the council’s budget response, would direct $50 million for a pilot program of the “Fair Fares” initiative to provide half-fare MetroCards to city residents living at or below the federal poverty line.

Under the pilot, that subsidy would be limited to CUNY students that meet the income requirement, or about 72,700 New Yorkers.

“When it comes to Fair Fares, it’s so important for New Yorkers struggling to get around our city that this make it into the mayor’s executive budget,” said Manhattan Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, chair of the Council’s Transportation Committee, in a statement. “My colleagues and I are ready find a way to get it done creatively after hearing concerns about cost.”

The original Fair Fares proposal called for an annual investment of $200 million for all city residents living at the poverty line. It’s gained widespread support among a majority of Council members, four borough presidents and other city officials who have called for New York to join San Francisco and Seattle in funding mass transit access for low-income residents.

In response to calls from advocates and elected officials to build out a five-borough Citi Bike network, the Council’s budget would provide $12 million to buoy the next expansion of the bike share. That money is meant to bring another 2,000 bikes, at $6,000 a clip, to Upper Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island — pending agreement between Citi Bike, a fully private entity, and the city.

The executive budget is due on April 26th. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration “will discuss [Citi Bike] expansion and the rest of the Council’s priorities as part of the ongoing budget process,” according to a statement from mayoral spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein.

The reaction to a Fair Fares pilot was far chillier. De Blasio and his administration have maintained that another MetroCard subsidy, on top of the discounts in place for schoolchildren, the elderly and the disabled, is too costly for the city — even in pilot form.

“The pilot program, like the original proposal, is a noble one, but the mayor has been very clear: the MTA is the responsibility of the state and they should consider funding the program,” said Goldstein in a statement.


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