The new year was supposed to bring half-priced MetroCards to low income New Yorkers, but the Fair Fares plan has yet to begin, and Comptroller Scott M. Stringer is demanding the city step up.
Under the new Fair Fares plan, which was included in the city budget in June, low-income New Yorkers are eligible for half-priced 7-day and 30-day MetroCard passes.
Fair Fares was scheduled to start Jan. 1, but on Thursday, Stringer called out City Hall for not yet detailing a timeline for how the plan will be rolled out, who will be eligible to participate or even any information on how the program will be implemented.
“Getting on that train for so many New Yorkers is a true financial burden. … So when the Fair Fares program offering discount tickets got funding in this year’s budget, low-income families won a landmark battle,” Stringer told reporters Thursday morning.
“Now, 800,000 New Yorkers are waiting for the cheaper MetroCards they were promised, because this program was supposed to begin on Jan. 1,” he said. “It was supposed to be the moment when people could sign up and get on that train, save some money, contribute to the economy and make a difference for their families. We’ve asked for many days, ‘Where’s the program?’”
The Fair Fares plan included a six-month waiting period before it was to be implemented, to help develop the program, Stringer said. That planning process was to end Dec. 31.
Stringer pointed out that no posters or billboards have even been unveiled to announce the program to New Yorkers.
Pressure on de Blasio to launch Fair Fares
With Fair Fares in limbo, so is the $106 million allocated to fund the plan.
“My job is to account for the 106 million,” said Stringer. “I have every intention to continue to ask questions, so people are not stuck in a waiting time for another six months or another year.”
Advocates with the Community Service Society and the Riders Alliance joined Stringer Thursday morning to call on Mayor Bill de Blasio for more transparency about the program.
At an unrelated press conference on Thursday, de Blasio was asked about Fair Fares updates in light of the comptroller’s comments.
“We are entirely focused on doing something that’s never been done before in the history of New York City,” he told reporters, “and I want to thank the City Council for their focus on this and for their partnership over the last six months in creating a brand new initiative that never existed before, and has to be gotten right.”
Cuomo said that an announcement explaining how people can apply for half-priced MetroCards will be happening soon, and that “every stage” of the Fair Fares project will be announced as they are ready.
Cuomo added that ultimately, he hopes to see Fair Fares covered as part of an MTA funding plan. He wants that change to happen as early as April to free up city budget resources for other initiatives, but that will have to come from officials in Albany.
Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s office said in a statement that he is working to make sure Fair Fares is a success.