MTA fare hike meeting in the Bronx includes calls for half-price MetroCards

The upcoming MTA fare hike has Bronx residents worried. A community hearing was held in the borough on Dec. 13, 2016.
The upcoming MTA fare hike has Bronx residents worried. A community hearing was held in the borough on Dec. 13, 2016. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Drew Angerer

The prospect of a $3 MetroCard fare is a “nightmare” for Bronx commuters, residents of the borough said.

At a Bronx public hearing on the two MTA fare hike proposals Tuesday evening, residents called for half-price fares for low-income New Yorkers, to ease the impact of more expensive MetroCards, and highlighted what they believed to be unfair policing of fare beaters — something that they feared would only increase when the higher rates go into effect in March.

In a county that features the highest unemployment rate in the state, residents said they’re left with difficult decisions that often come down to making rent versus regularly riding the subway.

“I have a friend who’s been unemployed for two years and it’s difficult because he doesn’t have $10 to get out and look for jobs,” said Anais McAllister, 22, of Yonkers. “This will obviously create more conflict with him and other people who are trying to get out and better themselves.”

The MTA is currently touring the region to take feedback on its two fare and toll hike proposals. The options weigh raising the MetroCard swipe to $3 or keeping the current $2.75 rate while tinkering with the purchase bonus, the rate that riders receive for pumping money onto their cards.

“Plan A” would keep base fares at $2.75, but riders would only receive an extra 5% bonus with a $5.50 purchase. Currently, they receive an 11% addition for that amount. “Plan B” would bring a $3 base fare, but also an increased bonus of 16% for a $6 purchase.

Ronald Griffin, 46, believes either option will put his family in a difficult place. He said that he has to balance his budget “better than the federal government” as he tries to support his two children in college while working his retail job.

“It will be a nightmare. … I’ve had to call out of work so that I could send my sons to school and give them lunch money,” he said. “Some days I decide between paying rent, other bills, or putting money on MetroCards for me and my kids.”

Griffin is a member of Riders Alliance, a transit advocacy group that has been campaigning with the Community Service Society for the city to provide funding for half-fare MetroCards for New York City residents living at or below the poverty line.

The groups have gained support among a majority of City Council members as well as three borough presidents. The idea would be for the city to set aside $200 million each year to subsidize fares for as many as 800,000 New Yorkers living at or below the federal poverty level.

“For a relatively small amount of money, considering the size of the city budget, we can make the lives of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers appreciably better,” said Bronx Deputy Borough President Aurelia Greene, speaking on behalf Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.

But in an interview with NY1’s Errol Louis last month, Mayor Bill de Blasio distanced himself from the idea, which he admitted was “very impressive.”

“An additional $200 million is going to be very, very hard to find in the city’s budget,” he said at the time. “That doesn’t mean the MTA can’t consider it as a priority. But for the city it’s going to be tough.”