In June, after more than two years of campaigning by advocates, activists and grassroots groups, the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced they’d struck a budget deal: one that included funding for the Fair Fares program, which would provide half-priced MetroCards to New Yorkers living below the federal poverty level.
The initiative, which experts say could potentially benefit as many as 800,000 low-income New Yorkers, is set to roll out in January, though the city has yet to release a detailed plan for how it will operate. Eligibility criteria, how many people the program will serve during its initial rollout, and exactly how participants will obtain their discounted MetroCards are all factors still being worked out, according to a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office.
One detail that we do know, revealed at an MTA committee meeting last week, is that the half-priced fares will only apply to the purchase of weekly and monthly MetroCards. Pay-Per-Ride MetroCards, which users can purchase and load with any amount of money over $5.50, are exempt from the discount, at least initially—something city officials say will allow them to get the program launched on time.
This news was a disappointment to transit advocates who’d pushed for the passage of Fair Fares, who argue that the city’s most cash-strapped New Yorkers are not always able to afford the upfront costs of a weekly or monthly MetroCard, even at a discount. Under Fair Fares, a 30-day MetroCard would cost $60.50 while a 7-day would cost $16.