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Gounardes pushes MTA for student discount on express bus

Students who take express buses to travel from Brooklyn to schools in Manhattan could get a break on the fare if the MTA adopts a proposal Brooklyn State Sen. Andrew Gounardes is pushing.

Gounardes has written a letter to MTA New York City Transit President Andy Byford and City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza urging them to approve a proposal to offer reduced fare Metrocards to students who commute to school on express buses.

Students currently pay the full fare of $6.75 per ride on express buses. Gounardes estimated that families spend $2,700 a year on express bus fares for their high school-age children. He did not specify how much of a discount he wanted students to receive.

Two Dyker Heights women, Antoinetta Cutrona and Antoinette Rowdis, whose sons attend high schools in Manhattan, first proposed the reduced fare idea earlier this year.

A petition the women started on change.org has garnered 1,600 signatures to date.

“As parents of students who need to take express buses to get to school, we sincerely thank Senator Gounardes for his immense support in proposing the MTA lower the express bus fares for high school students. With his solid commitment, together we can achieve this. A lowered express bus fare would be a big financial relief to us and so many families across the city,” Cutrona and Rowdis said in a statement.

Approximately 2,600 New York City high school students ride express buses to school, according to Gounardes, a Democrat whose district includes Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Manhattan Beach, Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach.

“I represent a large population of students who commute long distances from southern Brooklyn to Manhattan and express buses are often the only viable public transportation option available to them,” Gounardes wrote in his letter to Byford and Carranza. “The high cost of express bus fares is a big concern for many parents in my district.”

Preston Ferraiuolo, a Bay Ridge teenager who attends school in Manhattan, said he takes the X-27 express bus to school because it’s faster and more convenient than the subway.

“The R train doesn’t run well in our neighborhood,” he told the Home Reporter.

Ferraiuolo said he has classmates who travel from Long Island to his school in Manhattan, including one friend who has a monthly pass from the Long Island Rail Road that costs approximately $10 a day round trip.

“I’m paying close to $14 a day. He’s coming all the way from Long Island. I’m just traveling from one part of the city to another part of the same city. It’s not fair,” he said, adding that he strongly favors the proposal to reduce student fares on express buses.

The MTA board voted in May to give free Metrocards to students who live more than half a mile from school. The Metrocards do not allow students to ride express buses for free, however.

“Every student deserves the right to a world-class education and simply getting to and from school should not be a barrier,” Gounardes said. “These students are already commuting long hours to get to school each day. It’s time to offer students and their families the relief they deserve, so they can focus on what they need to do: learn.”

But not everyone is on board with the idea of students getting a discount to ride the express bus.

One Bensonhurst resident wrote on Twitter that taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize transportation costs for students who choose to attend schools long distances from their homes when they could have chosen to enroll in local schools. “New Dorp High School or Fort Hamilton High School not good enough for you?” the man tweeted.

The MTA is unlikely to approve the proposal at this time, according to agency spokesperson Shams Tarek. “Our current fiscal challenges don’t allow expanding the benefit of free or discounted rides to express buses,” he told the Home Reporter in an email.

Besides, Tarek said, the current Student Metrocard system gives students great accessibility when it comes to transportation.

“The Student MetroCard, made available by joint funding from the MTA, New York State, and New York City, gives free access to local buses and the subway with transfers between both, which combined go everywhere that express buses do and in many cases faster,” he said. “Local buses and subways are also an excellent free option for students providing more frequency especially during off-peak hours when students are often traveling.”

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