Photo Courtesy of Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office
The City indicated that it is committed to expanding the program to as many New Yorkers as possible in future phases and is already developing the infrastructure to make that possible.
By Michael V. Cusenza
The City on Friday finally announced the details of the Fair Fares program—three days after it was scheduled to go into effect.
Last summer, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council struck a deal to make the Fair Fares public transportation program part of the $89 billion Fiscal Year 2019 Budget. The agreement called for the City to spend $106 million to provide half-priced MetroCards for residents with annual incomes at or below the federal poverty level.
However, the Jan. 1 kick-off date came and went, with administration officials remaining tight-lipped regarding the rollout of Fair Fares, and straphanger-advocacy groups and some elected officials worried about the implementation of the initiative.
On Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced that the Fair Fares rollout would be broken down into phases. During the first phase, the City will provide discounted MetroCards to working New Yorkers at or below the federal poverty level who are receiving cash assistance or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits from the City Department of Social Services.
The Fair Fares NYC MetroCard will allow participants to purchase unlimited weekly and monthly passes at a 50-percent discount at Metropolitan Transportation Authority vending machines. The cards can be used on any New York City subway or non-express bus. The City is working with the MTA to phase in a pay-per-ride option, which it expects to launch in April.
On Friday, DSS indicated that it has started contacting 30,000 eligible working New Yorkers who are receiving cash assistance benefits. The notifications, and subsequent telephone calls, will inform this group of their eligibility and invite them to visit the nearest Fair Fares NYC location to receive their half-priced MetroCard. Eligible recipients can also call 311 to assist in receiving their card. In April, an additional estimated 130,000 working New Yorkers who are receiving SNAP benefits will receive notifications about how to access their cards.
The City also noted on Friday that it’s committed to expanding Fair Fares to as many New Yorkers as possible in future phases and is already developing the infrastructure to make that possible.
“Just as important as what is happening today is the next step. Mayor de Blasio is right to reaffirm his commitment to implementing the full Fair Fares program, and the City is right to implement in phases until we reach everyone living below poverty. The inclusion of pay-per-ride MetroCards is also a vital step forward, because many low-income people have unpredictable work schedules and often can only afford a few rides at a time,” Riders Alliance Executive Director John Raskin said on Friday. “The City needs to lay out a fast timeline for how we get from this initial group of recipients to the point where everyone eligible can apply and take advantage of Fair Fares. That includes immigrant New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status. That includes people not already using other city services—every low-income New Yorker who fought for and won this program. People are asking us how to apply, and the City needs an answer.”