For far too many New Yorkers who are trying to make ends meet, it’s a vicious circle that always comes up short. These New Yorkers struggle with everyday expenses, trying to get ahead, but one sick day, one emergency that keeps them from work, can mean the difference between putting food on the table and making the rent or keeping the lights on.
The majority of these working New Yorkers rely on the city’s public transportation system. The only way to get to work or to school is to take public transit, and for many they simply can’t afford the fare or to take advantage of the monthly cards, because they can’t afford the cash outlay of $116 all at once. So for a person who has a full-time job and works five days a week, that is $110 to go to work 20 times with no other MTA usage the entire month. On the other hand, someone who can afford $6 more and gets an unlimited card can travel seven days a week for 30 days.
As it stands now, many of the poorest New Yorkers are paying in excess of 10 percent of their income in transit costs. Between 2007 and 2015, transit fares went up 45 percent, six times faster than average salaries in New York City. And now they are set to go up again in 2017.
Do the math. We need to take action, and we need to do so quickly.
We must find a way to make transportation in this city affordable. We must expand the half-price MetroCard program already available to seniors and to persons with disabilities. We must provide half price MetroCards to low-income New Yorkers. Mayor Bill de Blasio has the power to put this increase into his 2018 executive budget and we urge him to do so.
Providing half-price MetroCards to New York City residents 18-64, living at or below the poverty line, could help up to 800,000 New Yorkers according to the Community Service Society, an advocacy organization whose mission is to bring down barriers preventing poor New Yorkers from moving ahead economically. This program is not only doable but also feasible.
CSS estimates that its half-fare proposal would cost the city approximately $200 million a year in foregone fare box revenue, plus administrative costs. That is less than 0.3 percent of the $82.2 billion city budget. And that would put approximately $700 annually back into the hands of the working poor and allow them to be able to use that money to help pay for the things they really need.
The mayor can take this action on his own, without a fight in Albany. He ran on the platform of a fairer and more equitable New York. Now is his chance to make that a reality.
Mayor de Blasio, put the money on the table and make good on your promises for a fairer city. We need half-price MetroCards for our poorest New Yorkers. We need to give them a chance. You need to give them a chance.