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Half-Priced MetroCards Are Now Available for Low-Income New Yorkers, Critics Argue Too Few Are Eligible

(Photo: iStock)

Jan. 4, 2019 By Christian Murray

The half-priced MetroCard program for low-income New Yorkers kicked off today with a joint press conference held by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson to mark the occasion.

The program will provide discounted MetroCards to working New Yorkers who live at or below the federal poverty line and are currently receiving cash assistance or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits from the city.

This month, 30,000 New Yorkers—those who receive cash assistance from the city– will be eligible for the cards. The pool of eligible recipients is expected to expand in April to about 130,000 people, when it starts including those who receive federal food stamps (SNAP) and are working.

The program subsidizes weekly and monthly unlimited metro cards—which can be used on the New York City subway and non-express buses. Half priced unlimited weekly passes cost $16, while a 30-day unlimited pass is $60.50.

The city is working with the MTA to phase in a pay-per-ride option.

The New York City Department of Social Services has started notifying those eligible for the cards. They are being advised to go to a designated office to pick up their “Fair Fares NYC MetroCard.”

Once they get the card, they can add funds at any MTA vending machine, which is programmed to charge half price.

De Blasio lauded the program, which was announced last spring by the city council and mayor. The program is expected to cost the city $106 million this year.

“New Yorkers shouldn’t have to choose between a ride on the subway or bus and their next meal,” De Blasio said. “Our partnership with the Council for fair fares will make our city stronger and fairer for low-income New Yorkers whose lives depend on mass transportation.”

“Fair Fares will open up this city and its promise to people who currently are being shut out because they can’t afford a swipe. It will change lives for the better,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

The program has faced some criticism for not going far enough, since 800,000 New Yorkers live below the poverty line and most will not quality. The federal poverty line is $25,000 a year for a family of four.

“The good news is that Fair Fares is finally leaving the station. The bad news is that after today’s announcement, the price of a MetroCard will remain an obstacle for the vast majority of the 800,000 New Yorkers who were originally promised relief,” Stringer said.

“That’s hundreds of thousands of families who will struggle to get to work or a job interview because they can’t afford a full fare. For their sake, we need to make sure this delay doesn’t become a derailment.”

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