Transit advocates renew call for half-priced MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers

The Riders Alliance is collecting photo petitions from struggling straphangers as part of a new facet of the group's Fair Fares campaign.
The Riders Alliance is collecting photo petitions from struggling straphangers as part of a new facet of the group’s Fair Fares campaign. Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

With another round of MTA fare hikes looming, transit advocates have picked up their push to help cash-strapped straphangers.

The Riders Alliance launched a new facet of its #FairFares campaign that will have members traveling around stations in the city to collect “photo petitions” to fight for half-priced MetroCards for low-income New York City residents.

“Riders shouldn’t have to make difficult calculations, walk long distances or forgo meals just to get ahead,” said Rebecca Bailin, campaign manager at the grassroots organization. “Right now we have riders who can’t even get on the subway and buses which means that we have a whole community of New Yorkers who can’t get to work; access economic opportunities; who can’t get to medical care or take advantage of New York City’s culture.”

One out of every four low-income New Yorkers often can’t afford a MetroCard swipe, according to a spring report from the Community Service Society of New York, which has collaborated with the Alliance on fare equity.

The groups argue that the greatest savings under the current MTA fare policy—monthly MetroCards—are out of reach for low-income commuters on a tight budget.

“I am fighting for Fair Fares because, as a struggling New Yorker with a three-year-old son, public stransit has become a barrier,” said Christine Guillaume, a Riders Alliance member from the Bronx. “There have been times where I had to hop on the back of the bus because I didn’t have enough money to get to class. And it’s not just me. My heart breaks when I see my neighbors, well-dressed, begging for swipes to get to work or a job interview.”

An estimated 800,000 New York adults would be eligible for the discount, according to the Alliance’s estimates, which could shave about $700 a year off annual MetroCard costs per commuter.

After kicking off the petition campaign in the Bronx Wednesday, the alliance will visit subway stations in low-income areas of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens before presenting the petitions collected to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

While Gov. Andrew Cuomo runs the MTA, the alliance believes that, since the discount would be eligible for city residents, the mayor would be best suited to institute the policy.

A mayor’s spokesperson in an email said that the proposal “will need to be analyzed in the context of the City’s overall budget” and noted that last year “the de Blasio administration committed to an unprecedented $2.5 billion contribution to the MTA.”