Riders Alliance pushes reduced Metrocard plan
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The announcement by the MTA that it will likely have to raise bus and subway fares in March drew shift reaction from transit advocates and lawmakers who pushed for lower-cost Metrocards for low-income New Yorkers and demanded that the agency get its fiscal house in order.
In the wake of the MTA’s Nov. 16 announcement, the Riders Alliance and the Community Service Society of New York (CSSNY) renewed their calls for Mayor de Blasio to implement half-priced MetroCards for low-income riders.
On Nov. 16, the MTA unveiled two options to increase the transit fares and bridge tolls.
The MTA is considering two plans, including one that would raise the transit fare to $3.00 from the current $2.75. Under that plan, riders would get an increase in the bonus given for purchasing a Metrocard of at least $5.50. The bonus would go up from 11 percent to 16 percent. The other plan the MTA is mulling would keep the fare at $2.75, but would reduce the bonus from 11 percent to 5 percent.
Both plans call for the 30-day Metrocard to increase to $121.00 from the current $116.50. The cost of a 7-day Metrocard would jump from $31.00 to $32.00.
“Fare hikes are a burden on everyone, but are especially hard for low-income New Yorkers,” said Rebecca Bailin, campaign manager at the Riders Alliance. “While we push for greater investment from Albany to keep our subways and buses running, our mayor has a unique opportunity to help hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who are currently locked out of job opportunities, affordable housing and community life in New York City.”
According to a report compiled by the CSSNY, as many as 800,000 New Yorkers would be eligible for reduced fares under the proposal.
More than two dozen City Councilmembers are on board with the reduced Metrocard proposal.
“The MTA’s anticipated fare hike will put an undue strain on women who are already underpaid, represent the majority of minimum wage earners and single head of households, and yet contribute the most to our city’s economic growth and development,” said Councilmember Laurie A. Cumbo (D-Fort Greene-Clinton Hill).
“In this city we work hard to ensure that low-income New Yorkers have access to affordable housing, food banks and health insurance. Yet, our public transportation system has not been a part of this equation,” said Councilmember Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst).
Just over half of the agency’s $15.6 billion annual operating budget comes from fares and tolls, according to the MTA.
“The MTA continues to keep its promise to make sure that fare and toll increases, while necessary to keep our system running, remain as low and possible and that they are done in as equitable a way as possible,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said in a statement.
The proposals will be the subject of eight public hearings across the MTA region in December.
The new fares and tolls would take effect on Mar. 19, 2017.
In light of the MTA announcement, Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) called for the state Legislature to hold the line on the MTA’s debt limit.
The 2016 state budget authorized the MTA to increase its debt limit from $37.2 billion to $55 billion, according to Malliotakis.
“As long as the governor and state Legislature keep giving the MTA a blank check to issue debt, we will see proposals to increase tolls and fares. Eventually the debt comes due, and the MTA looks to hardworking commuters to foot the bill time and again,” Malliotakis said.