Seniors and people with disabilities can get half-price reduced fares on the MTA. There is a case to be made for that: They are more likely to live on limited incomes and travel at nonpeak times — and may have difficulty walking distances.
But what about those on really limited incomes, the poor? In the same survey, we asked New Yorkers whether or not they favor offering half-price fares to low-wage workers. Nearly seven of 10 (69%) said they like the idea. Eighty-three percent of low-income New Yorkers favor it, including nearly three-quarters (73%) who strongly back the proposal.
Some smaller cities are already trying this. Madison, Wis., offers low-income bus passes to riders who certify that their incomes are at or below 150% of federal poverty guidelines. The Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority offers reduced, low-income fares of $1, a 75-cent discount off the regular price per ride.
Applying these kinds of policies to the city’s mass transit system would require much more intensive planning to guard against abuses and negative impacts on rush-hour crowding and revenues, but we should start crunching the numbers.
If low-wage workers cannot afford to take a trip now, then the revenue loss might be small, and the main impact would be to increase ridership.