Transit advocates are expressing concern that the city isn’t doing enough to let the public know about the reduced Metrocard program known as Fair Fares that is coming in January and are calling on the mayor to use his bully pulpit to get the word out.
The Riders Alliance is one of 38 organizations that signed a Dec. 12 letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio demanding that he release a detailed plan on how his administration intends to let low-income New Yorkers know that starting in January, they will be able to purchase Metrocards to ride the city’s buses and subways at half-price.
An exact date for the launch of Fair Fares has not been announced.
The Fair Fares program is costing the city approximately $100 million, yet few people know about it, advocates said. And those who are aware of the program are waiting to learn the details of how they can go about purchasing half-fare Metrocards, according to the Riders Alliance.
Nearly 800,000 New Yorkers, including tens of thousands of Brooklyn residents, will be able to take part in the Fair Fares program, according to most estimates.
“As January 2019 fast approaches, all the low-income New Yorkers we promised to help are eagerly waiting to learn how they will be able to sign up for and start benefitting from their reduced-fare MetroCard. Among them are: the working poor, especially immigrants who do not qualify for public benefits or are fearful of accepting federal program that might put themselves or family members at risk; the unemployed searching for work; and low-income college students struggling to get the education they need to get ahead,” the letter reads in part.
In addition to the Riders Alliance, the groups that signed the letter include 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East; 32BJ SEIU; RWDSU; Legal Aid Society; Bronx Defenders; Brooklyn Defender Services; Regional Plan Association; New York Communities for Change; Latino Justice PRLDEF; Make the Road-New York and the Community Service Society of New York.
Councilmembers Justin Brannan, who represents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst, and Mark Treyger, whose district includes Coney Island and Gravesend, were among the elected officials who came out strongly in favor of the Fair Fares program.
Some of the details about the program’s launch have already been made public. For example, in order to get the reduced price, riders will have to buy seven-day unlimited or 30-day unlimited Metrocards.
The Community Service Society (CSS) helped launch an effort back in 2016 to convince the city to sponsor a Fair Fares program. That same year, CSS released a study which found that one in four low-income New Yorkers could not afford subway and bus fares.
The lack of affordable transportation options stymies economic growth, since people could not afford to take jobs outside of their neighborhoods, the CSS study found.
In June of this year, the mayor and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced that the Fair Fares program would be included in the city budget.
“We have to make New York City a city that works for all 8.6 million New Yorkers, because at the end of the day, fairness will determine our future,” de Blasio said in a statement issued at the time the announcement was made.
Jaclyn Rothenberg, a spokesperson for the mayor, told this newspaper on Tuesday that the de Blasio administration is preparing to inform the public about the reduced Metrocard program.
“We hear the advocates’ concerns and are taking them seriously. We’re prepared to launch the program in January and will have details to announce soon,” Rothenberg said.