The City Council is taking matters into its own hands after Mayor de Blasio neglected to include funding for a reduced fare MetroCard program for low-income New Yorkers in the preliminary draft of the city’s fiscal year 2019 budget. This marks the second year in a rowDe Blasio has bucked the proposed program.
As a response, more than half of the City Council has signed a letter to Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Finance Committee Chair Daniel Dromm affirming their support for Fair Fares. The discount fare program proposed by the Community Service Society and Riders Alliance would make working-age New York residents living at or below the poverty line of $24,339 for a family of four eligible to receive half-price MetroCards.
Mayor de Blasio maintains that all things relating to the MTA are the jurisdiction of the state. But that’s not sitting well with the council, which is elected to represent the one in four low-income New Yorkers who a CSS study found often can’t afford subway and bus fares.
“Access to our subways and buses is a basic economic necessity for New Yorkers, who rely on transit to get to work, school, doctors’ visits, and essential services,” the letter reads. “New York, which continues to face staggering levels of income inequality, cannot be the fairest city in America while hundreds of thousands of our neighbors have trouble accessing daily necessities because they cannot afford to take the bus or subway.”
The letter is a stab at Mayor de Blasio’s Tale of Two Cities platform that’s meant to address income inequality in New York. Although he has yet to step up and support Fair Fares, De Blasio has allotted $250 million for half-price MetroCards for 800,000 New Yorkers in his Fair Fix transit funding proposal. But Fair Fix, also known as the millionaires’ tax, has yet to become a reality in the city. The pledge is essentially theoretical in a place where concrete action needs to be taken.
“New Yorkers shouldn’t have to decide between their subway fare and their groceries,” City Council member Jimmy Van Bramer said in a prepared statement supporting Fair Fares. “We, as lawmakers, can help ensure that those living below the poverty line are able to take the bus or subway to appointments, work and school by making the Fair Fares plan a reality, guaranteeing half price MetroCards for some of our city’s most vulnerable.”
MTA Chairman Joe Lhota announced last week that a fare hike looks inevitable in 2019, making the funding of a discounted MetroCard program even more urgent.