Impassioned advocates of the Fair Fares initiative, a pilot program to provide subsidized MetroCards to poor New Yorkers, cleared a big hurdle with the City Council including it in its response to the mayor's proposed city budget for 2018.
Council members noted that the program would cost the city $212 million. The pilot program is one of the recommendations listed under the heading “Protecting and Investing in Vulnerable New Yorkers” in the council's budget response.
The Fair Fares campaign’s co-chairs the Community Service Society and the Riders Alliance rejoiced Tuesday at the news that City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and other councilmembers heard their calls for immediate action.
“The New York City Council have taken a major step towards ensuring that low-income New Yorkers will be able to afford essential access to our bus and subway system by including support for Fair Fares in their response to the Mayor's preliminary executive budget,” the Riders Alliance said in a statement.
Implementation of the pilot program now depends on Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has called it "a good meaningful proposal" that the city cannot afford.
“It’s just not something we can get into this city budget," the mayor told the Gotham Gazette in January. "And also I think it’s a state responsibility. I think the state can’t have it both ways on the MTA. They control the MTA. They have to pay for the MTA. So if people believe this is the kind of thing we should do, the state should pick up that responsibility.”
Advocates of the measure say that about 800,000 New Yorkers who ride the bus, subway and trains would qualify for the reduced fares. They made a big push for de Blasio’s attention during the MTA’s hearings about raising MetroCard costs.
“On behalf of our broad coalition of economic justice, transit, labor, faith and criminal justice groups, we thank the Council for their leadership," the advocacy groups said in a statement. "And we look forward to working with the Council and the de Blasio Administration in the weeks ahead in coming up with a plan to phase in half-price fares starting in FY2018.”