#FairFares

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 6th  2017

 As NYC Election Season Begins, Transportation Advocates Release“Transportation and Equity: A 2017 Agenda for Candidates”

Leading Transportation Groups Identify Policy Priorities for New York City Candidates to Champion

 New York, NY – Today, New York’s eight leading transportation advocacy organizations released their first-ever comprehensive transportation agenda for City government and announced a plan to share the list of priorities with every candidate running for Mayor, City Council, Borough President, Comptroller and Public Advocate. The agenda, called “Transportation and Equity: A 2017 Agenda for Candidates,” outlines steps that the City must take to ensure that New Yorkers have affordable, reliable transit options.

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The coalition of organizations releasing the “Transportation and Equity” agenda includes the New York League of Conservation Voters, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, Pratt Center for Community Development, Regional Plan Association, Riders Alliance, StreetsPac, Transportation Alternatives and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.


The proposal calls on the City to:


–       Find Funding for Public Transportation by advocating for funding sources in Albany and identifying local solutions (such as real estate value capture) to address the transit funding crisis


–       Provide Better Bus Service by implementing the local bus improvement recommendations of the Bus Turnaround Campaign and expanding the City’s Select Bus Service program


–       Implement Affordable Access to Public Transportation by funding Fair Fares for low-income riders and reducing ticket prices for Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road riders who are traveling within city limits.


–       Double Bicycling by 2020 by building a citywide network of protected bike lanes and expand affordable bike share to all five boroughs.


–       Achieve Vision Zero by 2024 by prioritizing safety in all transportation and road design decisions; fully funding Vision Zero and fixing known dangerous streets in all boroughs; ensuring that traffic enforcement is data-driven, effective, fair and just; and establishing clear metrics for reaching zero deaths and serious injuries.


–       Reallocate Street Space by eliminating parking minimums, reforming street parking and adopting new technologies for managing curb space.


–       Protect L Train Riders during the shut-down.


The full text of “Transportation and Equity: A 2017 Agenda for Candidates” can be found here: http://tstc.org/transportation-equity-agenda-2017.pdf


The transit advocates’ 2017 agenda comes as the region’s public transit is in a moment of crisis. Though only Governor Cuomo can fix performance on the State-run MTA subway system, the coalition argued that the City can do more to help New Yorkers get to work, school and other destinations – and win better access to jobs and economic opportunity as a result. The platform outlines a series of achievable steps that the City can take to improve bus service, provide better access to affordable transit, improve conditions for bicycling and walking—all changes the City can make without permission from the State.


Advocates vowed today to use the platform to hold candidates accountable to improving transit options for New Yorkers between now and the election. This year, virtually every City-level office, including Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller, all five Borough Presidents, the Manhattan and Brooklyn DAs and all 51 seats in the City Council, are up for election. Some organizations will hold candidate forums and town halls, while others will work with grassroots memberships to highlight these issues and disseminate the platform at public events.


John Raskin, Executive Director of the Riders Alliance, said, “Only Governor Cuomo can fix New York City’s crumbling subways, but there is a lot the City can do to help New Yorkers get around the city safely and affordably. From Fair Fares to bus lanes to infrastructure for bicyclists and pedestrians, the City should be a leader in providing safe, affordable and reliable transportation options. I hope that candidates for Mayor, City Council and other local offices will translate our proposals into public policy that can help millions of New Yorkers gain better access to jobs and economic opportunity.”


“If New York City is to meet its 80 x 50 climate goal in the transportation sector, pursuing this agenda would be a great start. Implementing our coalition’s recommendations to make walking, biking, or riding buses and subways reliable, efficient and safe will encourage more New Yorkers to choose low-carbon mobility systems, particularly in car-dependent neighborhoods in the outer boroughs. We look forward to working together to see this vision of a greener, healthier and more equitable city into reality,” said Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters.


Elena Conte, Director of Policy at the Pratt Center for Community Development, said, “Being able to count on transportation systems working, and having equal access to safe and dignified ways to get around is a right and not a privilege. Our current systems deprive entire communities — especially low income communities of color — of this right and there are actions that every level of government must take to address this need. The Governor controls the MTA, but the City controls the streets, so whether it’s local Council Members stepping up to support bus lanes or the Mayor and the Council working together to lower parking minimums, no one is exempt from the pressing need to take proactive steps to address this injustice. ”


“Investments in transit are critical to ensure all residents in our City have a chance at success,” said Pierina Sanchez, New York Director for the Regional Plan Association, “Though the MTA is a state controlled entity, there are many actions city leaders can take to ensure our streets are working for all  residents, while also uniting to push for greater improvements from the state. All aspiring for leadership in NYC should adopt this Transportation and Equity Agenda.”


“With this agenda, we hope to inspire New York City’s political leaders to support better, safer, and more affordable transportation options for the millions of New Yorkers who depend on public transit each day,” said Jaqi Cohen, Campaign Coordinator for the Straphangers Campaign.


“While we remain stuck in an archaic system in which state legislators more than 300 miles away have undue influence over New York City’s streets and transportation system, there’s much that our local elected officials can achieve without Albany’s interference,” said Eric McClure, Executive Director of StreetsPAC. “This agenda is a roadmap to safer streets and better transit that’s achievable now.”


“As we all brace for the long-term fight to save our transit system, there are easy transportation solutions that candidates for office must champion right now,” said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “From Vision Zero measures that make walking and biking a safe option, to car-free Peopleways transporting 300,000 commuters during the pending L-Pocalypse, to affordable bike share in all five boroughs—there is no shortage of effective policies that candidates can adopt today.”


“The next generation of city leaders should use this agenda as a guide to sustain and advance the progress our advocacy has made on New York City’s streets. We welcome fresh thinking and innovative ideas that will support and enhance this agenda,” said Veronica Vanterpool, executive director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign.


Additional Contacts:


Jordan Levine, New York League of Conservation Voters 917-392-8965/jlevine@nylcv.org

Jaqi Cohen, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign — 914-393-0755jcohen@nypirg.org

Elena Conte, Pratt Center for Community Development  — 646-596-2563/econte@prattcenter.net

Pierina Ana Sanchez, Regional Plan Association —  917-546-4321/pierina@rpa.org

Eric McClure, StreetsPAC —  (646) 522-2589/eric@streetspac.org

Paul Steely White, Transportation Alternatives – 646-247-6734/paul@transalt.org

Veronica Vanterpool, Tri-State Transportation Campaign  — 917-957-9748/vvanterpool@tstc.org




 

For Immediate Release

April 25, 2017

As City Budget Negotiations Enter Final Weeks, Elected Officials and Fair Fares Advocates Rally for Funding

Supporters call for phase-in of proposed half-priced mass transit fare for working poor

New York, NY – A coalition of anti-poverty, labor, legal, immigrant and transit advocacy organizations rallied on the steps of City Hall today to thank the City Council for including funds forFair Fares in its budget response and to call on Mayor de Blasio to get on board. Advocates are urging the City to begin phasing in a reduced fare for the city’s working poor starting with New York City residents living in deep poverty.

 

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Mayor de Blasio omitted funds for Fair Fares – a proposal by the Community Service Society (CSS) and Riders Alliance to subsidize half-priced bus and subway fares for working-age city residents living at or below the federal poverty line — in his $84.7 billion preliminary budget citing the cost. In its response to the mayor’s budget last month, the City Council proposed a pilot Fair Fares program aimed at college students, or the homeless or veterans, and has proposed that the program be funded with $50 million in the FY2018 budget.


As budget negotiations enter the final weeks, supporters and City Council Members have united behind an alternative approach that calls for a gradual phase in of subsidized MetroCards, the same way the $15 minimum wage law is being implemented in stages. It would start with New Yorkers earning 50 percent of poverty, or roughly $12,000 annually for a family of four, and then rise over subsequent years to include those at 75 percent of poverty and then 100 percent of poverty.


Under such a program, 379,000 New Yorkers would initially be eligible for discount fares. Advocates argue this approach is preferable to covering a specific category of riders. Moreover it provides a logical path to reach the overall goal of covering all New York City residents living in poverty. Further, implementing the phase in program in the second half of the fiscal year allows adequate time for a smooth rollout and reduces the FY2018 cost to about $50 million—the same figure cited in the City Council budget response.


 “With so many New Yorkers living in deep poverty, Fair Fares is a lifeline out,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “Providing half-priced MetroCards to those in need is less a transportation issue than it is an effective anti-poverty tool to pull more New Yorkers into the middle class. We have responded to the Mayor’s concerns over cost by developing a phase-in program, meant to ease strains on the city budget, while providing time to get it right. I am confident that as Mayor de Blasio has long been a leader in tackling poverty in New York City, he will see the value this can bring and the widespread benefits for the city as a whole. With just weeks left in this process, I know we can get this done.”


CSS and the Riders Alliance have argued that Fair Fares would help make essential public transit more affordable for the one in four low-income New Yorkers who say in opinion polls they struggle to pay bus and subway fares now. The mayor has called the proposal a “noble idea,” but suggests the responsibility for funding it rests with the state. However, current law gives the mayor power to subsidize fares, as the city already does for seniors and students, as well as middle and higher income commuters through a tax break. Fully funding the Fair Fares proposal would represent less than 0.3 percent of the City’s multi-billion dollar municipal budget.


“Physical mobility – to get to better jobs, commute to college and provide opportunities for your kids — is a requisite for economic mobility,” said David R. Jones, CSS President and CEO and a MTA Board Member. “If we can spend billions in subsidies and capital on building a trolley to connect middle and upper-income waterfront neighborhoods and on high-speed ferries, we can dip into that pool of funds to ensure the poorest among us can access public transit. It’s time to stand up and protect the working poor by providing transit affordability to those who need it the most.”


John Raskin, Executive Director of the Riders Alliance said, “Public transit should serve as access to jobs and opportunity, not another barrier.  Today, some of the New Yorkers who need public transit the most are effectively shut out because of the fare.  It’s time for Mayor de Blasio to follow through on his commitment to the most vulnerable New Yorkers and include Fair Fares in the City budget.”


“Every day low income New Yorkers, as many as one in four, are having to choose between transit and other daily living expenses.  For them, the cost of public transportation is increasingly unaffordable, and they wind up jeopardizing their jobs, their health, their safety, and even their freedom because they can’t afford the subway or bus fare,” said Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO and Executive Director of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA).  “By providing for MetroCard purchases at reduced rates for low income people, the City of New York would take a major step forward in its laudable plan to create a more equitable city for all. More New Yorkers would be able to travel to work, to school, to the hospital in the event of an emergency, or to pick up a child without hardship.”


Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives said, “New York is the nation’s most transit-dependent city, but the high cost of getting around has become more of a barrier than ever to economic advancement — a problem that gets worse with each fare hike. We urge Mayor de Blasio to adopt the Council’s proposed phase-in to make half-priced MetroCards available to the New Yorkers who need them most.”


 Danna Dennis, a Riders Alliance member from Bed-Stuy said, “Mayor de Blasio needs to fund Fair Fares now because it is harder than ever for low-income New Yorkers like myself to afford New York City. Every day, I have to decide whether it is worth it to walk or beg an MTA employee to let me in. I want Mayor de Blasio to stand up for me because I am sick and tired of struggling to get ahead.”


Addressing income inequality, the affordability crisis and risks of deportation


 Income inequality has grown in New York City in the recovery from the financial crisis, with those at the bottom losing ground. A recent Independent Budget Office analysis of personal income returns of city residents from 2006 to 2014 found that most of the income gains over the period accrued to the top 50 percent of filers. Total income reported in 2014 by the top 50 percent of filers increased by 14.8 percent compared to 2006. By comparison, total income fell for the bottom half of filers during the same period. Specifically, median income for roughly 1.8 million filers declined from $14,153 in 2006 t0 $12,360 in 2014.


Making New York’s extensive mass transit network more accessible to those struggling economically would broaden opportunities for low income New Yorkers, directly and immediately help address the affordability crisis, and open up a vast labor pool for employers. Advocates also argue that Fair Fares represents the kind of progressive policymaking that can mitigate the harm done by aggressive fare-evasion policing, which accounts for about a quarter of all arrests in the city and disproportionately impacts communities of color and the poor.


In fact, under the Trump Administration’s hardline immigration policies, both undocumented immigrants and legal permanent residents could face deportation for a fare evasion arrest.


“For the 4,000 New Yorkers who’ve been arrested this year for jumping a turnstile, it’s very clear that $2.75 is a prohibitive cost that many in our city cannot afford. And as long as the NYPD keeps enforcing low-level offenses in poor communities, immigrants will be even more susceptible to ICE detention and deportation,” said Tina Luongo, Attorney-In-Charge of the Criminal Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “The City Council’s FY2018 proposal to phase-in half-priced MetroCards is a bold plan that affords much needed financial relief to low-income families and will prove to ultimately reduce turnstile arrests – a deportable offense. If New York is serious about providing sanctuary, we need strong investments from City Hall for these types of forward-thinking initiatives.”


“Brooklyn Defender Services has enthusiastically supported the Fair Fares campaign since its inception because our clients—all of whom are, by definition, indigent—need the support. We know this because thousands of them are arrested for fare evasion every year while going to school, job interviews, or elsewhere in the city. Some of our clients walk great distances to court because they can’t afford the fares. Others are arrested by police hiding on the platforms in the stations outside courthouses, waiting for individuals who have just been released without their wallets or other belongings. Those who are arrested may be detained on Rikers Island at a cost of about $676 per day. We as a city can and must do better. This is urgent, now more than ever, because fare evasion arrests can lead to deportation for our neighbors who lack citizenship. We join the Riders Alliance and the Community Service Society in calling on the Mayor to follow the Council’s lead and fund #FairFares to help make public transit the great equalizer in New York—not a feeder for the criminal legal and immigration enforcement systems,” said Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services.


“The high cost of living already pummels New York’s most vulnerable families, and rising transit costs can be detrimental,” said New York City Public Advocate Letitia James. “No one should have to choose between getting to work and feeding their children. I applaud the New York City Council for supporting Fair Fares, and call on Mayor de Blasio to fully fund this proposal. To truly be on our way to ending the tale of two cities, we must ensure that every New Yorkers has access to affordable public transportation.”


“Budgets are about priorities – and giving New Yorkers a ‘fair fare’ means giving them a fair shot,” said NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “At a time when the gap between those at the top and those at the bottom has never been greater, this is not just the right thing to do – it’s the commonsense economic thing to do. Working families shouldn’t have to choose between using public transportation and putting food on the table. We need to be a City that supports those in need — and helps them get ahead. When we give New Yorkers tools to climb the economic ladder, our entire City succeeds.”


“Mass transit is essential to well over half of low-income New Yorkers. By providing 50 percent discount fares, we can reduce the growing gap between fare hikes and wage hikes and immediately improve the household budgets of the working poor,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer.


 “We must do everything we can to provide low-income families and individuals with the resources they need to help them improve their lives. That’s why I support the “Fair Fares” campaign, which would allow those struggling to make ends meet to obtain discounted MetroCards.  It is cheaper and better to help someone pay for their public transportation than to limit their opportunities of getting a well-paying job. I will continue to tirelessly advocate for true equity and prosperity for all New Yorkers,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.


 The Fair Fares coalition also announced new coalition members, including Council Member David G. Greenfield, Council Member Debi Rose and Council Member Alan Maisel bringing the total to 39 of the 51 members as well as the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA) and the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.


Council Member Costa Constantinides said, “All New Yorkers deserve affordable transit options, including low-income residents. The savings from reduced-fare MetroCards would help working men and women support their families. It would also encourage use of public transportation and help build sustainable habits. I stand with my colleagues as we work for reduced-fare MetroCards to be a part of budget negotiations.”


“Access to our subways and buses should never be a barrier for low-income New Yorker’s who have so much to gain from the opportunity of mobility” said Council Member Rafael Espinal, Chair of the Committee on Consumer Affairs. “I am proud to stand with this coalition in urging NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio to include funding for half priced MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers in the FY18 budget.”


Council Member Mathieu Eugene said, “As elected officials, it is our moral obligation to help our city’s low- income residents maintain access to public transportation. It is not right when the hard working men and women of New York cannot afford the exorbitant fees of our transit system. We must do more to ensure that residents who rely on the subway and bus system as their primary mode of transportation are not excluded from it due to affordability.”


“Having basic access to public transportation should not eat up a large portion of a household budget,” said Council Member Barry S. Grodenchik. “The Fair Fares proposal to provide low-income New Yorkers with half-priced MetroCards offers a significant step toward increasing transit affordability.”


“New Yorkers in poverty already face rising rents, rising food prices, and a rising cost of living,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “Half-priced MetroCard’s will give them much-needed financial relief in these increasingly expensive times. This is an important initiative that can make a real difference in many thousands of lives, and I’m proud to support it. I thank the Riders Alliance and all the advocates who are amplifying the voices of these New Yorkers who are just looking for fair fares.”


“Nearly 9,000 people in my district would see their lives improved if ‘Fair Fares’ is funded in this year’s budget,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Whether you are a working New Yorker struggling to pay for transportation to and from work or unemployed and looking for work ‘Fair Fares’ will bring equity to transportation in New York City and give more residents access to their City.”


Council Member Karen Koslowitz said, “For far too many New Yorkers, the cost of public transportation to and from work represents a significant dent in their budgets. For them. the savings realized from reduced transit fares will be spent on basic necessities such as food and clothing forthemselves and their families. I enthusiastically support half-fare MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers.”


“The rising cost of public transportation in New York City is at the heart of our affordability crisis. When New Yorkers cannot afford the cost of a MetroCard, they forgo job opportunities, family gatherings, doctors’ appointments and more. If the Mayor is serious about addressing this crisis, then he must make the fair fares proposal a reality,” said Council Member Rory Lancman.


 “With the cost of public transit rising but wages remaining stagnant, it is critical that the City give impoverished New Yorkers a much need break in their commuting costs,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “New Yorkers who fall below the poverty line already face an incredible struggle to make ends meet, and with the recent fare increase, it’s only gotten more difficult. By funding the cost of offering half-price MetroCards, eligible New Yorkers could save up to $700 annually, dramatically increasing their quality of life. I fully support the Council’s proposed $50 million budget allocation to begin phasing in this program, and thank the Rider’s Alliance and Community Service Society fortheir invaluable leadership on this issue.”


For more than 170 years, the Community Service Society of New York has been the leading voice on behalf of low-income New Yorkers and continues to advocate for the economic security of the working poor in the nation’s largest city. We respond to urgent, contemporary challenges with applied research, advocacy, litigation and innovative program models that help the working poor achieve a better quality of life and promote a more prosperous city.


 The Riders Alliance is a grassroots organization of subway and bus riders pushing for better service at affordable fares and a stronger public investment in mass transit. Visit us at ridersny.org.


Please also see  a new CSS video featuring Riders Alliance members portraying public transportation hardships faced by low-income New Yorkers, go to https://youtu.be/J8oN0Z0Htp0.




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

 As Fare Hikes Announced, New Urgency in Call for Half-Priced MetroCards forLow-Income New Yorkers

 Riders Seek Help from Mayor de Blasio to Make Transit System Affordable for All

The poor pay more: low-income riders bear brunt of fare increases

New York – In response to today’s announcement of impending fare hikes at the MTA Board meeting, Community Service Society of New York (CSS) and the Riders Alliance renew their call to Mayor de Blasio to implement half-priced MetroCards for low-income riders. 

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As part of its plan for regularly-scheduled fare hikes, the MTA announced today a 4% fare hike, to take effect on March 19th, 2017. Options under consideration include the possibility of raising the price of a single ride to $3 and the cost of unlimited cards to $32 for a weekly and $121 for a monthly.  In 2009 the MTA established a plan to raise fares by at most 4% every two years in order to keep pace with inflation and other costs. In December, the MTA will begin its public review process and hold public hearings on their fare hike proposals across the city before the increases go into effect.


According to a 2016 report from CSSThe Transit Affordability Crisis, 58 percent of poor New Yorkers are reliant on buses and subways for their livelihoods. At the same time, however, 1 in 4 low-income New Yorkers are unable to afford the cost of a MetroCard. Proponents of the discount fare program are pressing City Hall to establish a half-fare programfor New Yorkers at or below the poverty line and are calling for a program comparable to that which already exists forseniors and people with disabilities. Currently, no substantial fare relief is available to low-income riders. Additionally, low-income riders do not benefit from discounts available to middle and high-income commuters: pre-tax transit benefits or a cheaper unlimited monthly MetroCard require an upfront cost that is prohibitive for many poor New Yorkers.


“Making the city a more equitable place to live and work starts with ensuring that our vast public transportation system is both affordable and accessible to all New Yorkers, and not just the economically better-off,” said CSS President and CEO David R. Jones. “Higher bus and subway fares will have a disproportionate impact on low income residents and the working poor whose incomes have not kept pace with the rising costs of bus and subway fares. That’s why we are calling on the mayor to step in and address this inequity by funding a discounted transit fare for the city’s lowest-income residents.”


The cost of riding the city’s buses and subways has steadily increased over the years, proportionately outpacing earnings for the city’s lower-income households. Between 2007 and 2015, bus and subway fares rose by 45 percent—six times faster than average salaries in New York City, according to a September 2016 report from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.


Rebecca Bailin, Campaign Manager at the Riders Alliance, said, “Fare hikes are a burden on everyone, but are especially hard for low-income New Yorkers. 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. Other cities around the country are doing it—New York City should too.”


The Fair Fares campaign comprises 28 Council Members, Public Advocate Letitia James, City Comptroller Scott Stringer and 30 social, economic, transit and labor justice organizations. In addition to the growing support from a broad coalition and elected officials, the Fair Fares campaign is gaining traction with the public; new CSS Unheard Third poll findings released in October showed that more than seven in ten New Yorkers favor offering half-fare MetroCards to low-income city residents. 62 percent of respondents said they would more likely to vote for a mayoral candidate who promised to make half-price fares available to low- income riders.


According to CSS’s report, as many as 800,000 New Yorkers would be eligible for reduced fares under the proposal. Financially-strapped New Yorkers, some of whom have been forced to beg for swipes because they lack the $2.75 fare, would save an estimated $700 annually on the cost of monthly MetroCards – a significant savings for families at or below the federal poverty line, which is $24,036 for a family of four.


Income-based fare discounts are already in place in San Francisco and Seattle, among other cities. Proposals to establish half-price fares for low-income residents are under consideration in Boston and Denver. Adopting such a program in New York, the most transit-dependent city in the nation, would have an immediate and positive impact on one of the city’s biggest socioeconomic challenges: narrowing the income inequality gap.


“Subway and bus fares are already a burden for thousands of New Yorkers, and with this planned increase, ensuring we have Fair Fares will be a vital part of supporting residents in need,” said Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. “We need to push back against the widening gap between transit riders and those who cannot afford these rising prices. Transit is a public good and New York needs to begin treating it as such with investments that make it accessible to all.”


“New Yorkers are facing rising rents, rising food prices, and a rising cost of living. It’s simply not tenable to keep raising the cost of transportation as well,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “If we continue to let prices spin out of control, it’s going to create an economy that leaves too many hardworking New Yorkers behind. That’s not something we can tolerate. I thank the Riders Alliance, the Community Service Society of New York and all my fellow elected officials and advocates who are on the front lines of this crucial issue.”


“As the ‘city that never sleeps,’ millions of New Yorkers commute daily by train, bus, or rail. Despite the increased ridership, we have experienced consecutive fare hikes that have outpaced critical upgrades to our transit system.  Our workforce is economically diverse – many of whom are struggling financially and deserving of an affordable, reliable way to travel to and from work. 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 Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo.


Council Member Vincent Gentile said, “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. Reduced fares would enable those in need to travel to that job interview, get to that professional training class or go to the public library at an affordable cost. Fair Fares would simply give our most vulnerable individuals a better opportunity to succeed.”


“A transportation fare hike in 2017 will only make things worse for the many New Yorkers who already struggle to payfor a ride on our City’s subways and buses,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “No New Yorker should have to face the daily dilemma of choosing between money for food or money to commute to work or school. We should make the investment and provide funds for reduced-price MetroCards for low income New Yorkers.”


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For more than 170 years, the Community Service Society of New York has been the leading voice on behalf of low-income New Yorkers and continues to advocate for the economic security of the working poor in the nation’s largest city. We respond to urgent, contemporary challenges with applied research, advocacy, litigation and innovative program models that help the working poor achieve a better quality of life and promote a more prosperous city.


 The Riders Alliance is a grassroots organization of subway and bus riders pushing for better service at affordable fares and a stronger public investment in mass transit. Visit us at ridersny.org.




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 19th, 2016

Public and Political Support Grows for Proposal to Establish Reduced-Fare MetroCards for Lowest Income New Yorkers

New CSS Poll: 73 percent of New Yorkers favor half-price fare; 62 percent say they are more likely to vote for mayoral candidate who backs proposal

New York, N.Y. – Today, six months after launching the “Fair Fares” campaign calling for half-price bus and subway fares forlow-income New Yorkers, the Community Service Society (CSS) and Riders Alliance announced that 30 elected officials from across New York City (including a majority of council members) and  29 prominent advocacy, legal, labor and community-based groups have joined in support of the effort to remove this barrier to economic opportunity for low-income households struggling to afford the high cost of public transportation. 

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At today’s announcement, CSS, New York’s premier anti-poverty organization, and Riders Alliance, New York’s grassroots membership organization of bus and subway riders, released a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio urging him to include funding in his Fiscal Year 2018 Executive Budget for a program that would offer half-price MetroCards to New Yorkers between the ages of 18 and 64 living in households with incomes at or below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). The letter was signed by 27 City Council Members, Public Advocate Letitia James and City Comptroller Scott Stringer and 26 organizations. Organizations supporting the proposal include the Straphangers Campaign, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Transit Workers Union (TWU), Working Families, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Make the Road-NY, and a number of other major organizations throughout the city.


“Making the city a more equitable place to live and work starts with ensuring that our vast public transportation system is both affordable and accessible to all New Yorkers, and not just the economically-better off,” said CSS President and CEO David R. Jones. “So today we call on the mayor to take action that is consistent with his pledge to address social inequities in our city, and recognize that public transportation is essential in the daily lives of New Yorkers trying to get to work, school and access economic opportunities across the city. It’s time we made it more viable for those who need it the most.”


Norma Ginez, a Riders Alliance member from the Bronx who performed in the newly released video, said, “I have 3 kids and because the cost of living going up all the time, it makes it really hard to get by. I am fighting for Fair Fares because the cost of the subway and bus is an obstacle to getting ahead for low income families like mine. Sometimes I have to choose between MetroCards and buying a snack for my


girls. Back in 2012, when I was in the shelter system, there were times when I had to beg for a swipe. Or I had to walk really far. Now, I’ve just finished school and I am looking for a job, Fair Fares would help me get to job interviews. Fair Fares would help me get ahead.”


Samuel Santaella, a Riders Alliance member from Queens who was also featured in the video released today, said, “I need #FairFares because welfare and public assistance are not enough right now to cover the cost of four bus-subway-bus trips a day to take my little sister to school so I’m fighting for #FairFares for myself and my community. I don’t like that there are people who can’t get to where we need to go just because we can’t afford a $2.75 swipe.”


In addition to the growing support from a broad coalition and elected officials, the Fair Fares campaign is gaining traction with the public; new CSS Unheard Third poll findings released today show that more than seven in ten New Yorkers favor offering half-fare MetroCards to low-income city residents.


According to a 2016 CSS report, The Transit Affordability Crisis; How Reduced MTA Fares Can Help Low-Income New Yorkers Move Ahead, as many as 800,000 New Yorkers would be eligible for reduced fares under the proposal. Financially-strapped New Yorkers, some of whom have been forced to beg for swipes because they lack the $2.75 fare, would save an estimated $700 annually on the cost of monthly MetroCards – a significant savings for families at or below the FPL ($24,036for a family of four).


To document growing concerns about transit affordability and access to the city’s mass transit system by the working poor, CSS has been collecting and analyzing data from its annual Unheard Third survey. Recent survey results indicate that the steep cost of transit fares force many low-income New Yorkers to choose between transit and other necessities such as food and rent.


For example, one out of four low-income working-age New Yorkers say they often cannot afford bus and subway fares. A third of working-age, poor New Yorkers say they did not take a job or look for jobs farther from where they live because of the cost of a MetroCard. Because they have the highest jobless rates, African-Americans and Latinos are affected most by unaffordable transit fares.


The cost of riding the city’s buses and subways has steadily increased over the years, proportionately outpacing earnings forthe city’s lower-income households. Between 2007 and 2015, bus and subway fares rose by 45 percent — six times faster than average salaries in New York City, according to a September 2016 report from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. With the price of a MetroCard set to go up again in 2017 by four percent, and with 58 percent of low-income New Yorkers reliant on buses and subways to survive, proponents of a discount fare program are pressing City Hall to establish a half-fare program for low-income New Yorkers comparable to what’s available to seniors and people with disabilities.


Regardless of their incomes, seniors and people with disabilities already qualify for a half-price MetroCard. The city’s public school students also receive limited-use MetroCards from the Department of Education. Meanwhile, the fare structure gives the biggest discount to those who can afford a $116.50 monthly MetroCard. Moreover, middle class and higher income commuters can offset the cost by taking advantage of pre-tax transit benefits under the City’s new Commuter Benefits Law. Ironically, no substantial fare relief is available to low-income riders who depend on mass transit the most and can least afford rising fares.


CSS survey results found strong public support for a reduced fare program. Seventy-three percent of respondents favor such a program, including 66 percent who strongly favored it. Opposition to the proposal was comparatively low, with 11 percent of New Yorkers opposed to a reduced fare, including only seven percent who were strongly opposed.


Based on the data, a half-fare program has the potential to be a voting issue in the 2017 mayoral contest. When asked whether they would be more or less likely to vote for a mayoral candidate who championed a half-fare program for low-income New Yorkers, 62 percent of respondents said they would more likely to vote for a candidate who promised to make half-price fares available to low- income riders. A reduced fare program was particularly popular with blacks and Latinos who identified themselves as Democrats. More than half (52 percent of blacks and 55 percent of Latinos) said they were much more likely to vote for a mayoral candidate who promised reduced fares for low-income New Yorkers, with 70 percent more likely overall.


Income-based fare discounts are already in place in San Francisco and Seattle, among other cities. Proposals to establish half-price fares for low-income residents are under consideration in Boston and Denver. Adopting such a program in New York, the most transit-dependent city in the nation, would have an immediate and positive impact on one of the city’s biggest socioeconomic challenges: narrowing the income inequality gap.


Public Advocate Letitia James said, “We must include transit affordability in our fight against income inequality. One in four poor New Yorkers is unable to afford subway or bus fares, a strong indication that our city is becoming less affordable forpeople struggling at the bottom of the economic ladder. In order to truly lift up working families, we must ensure that every New Yorker can afford to move around our City.”


Comptroller Scott M. Stringer said, “We need to be a city where everyone has a fair shot – and that means taking simple steps that go a long way to help New Yorkers who need it most. This is one of those proposals. Reducing poverty is, of course, about great schools, great jobs, and great support services. But it’s also about shaking up the status quo with new and innovative approaches. With transit expenses consuming more and more of family budgets, this is a way to help low-income New Yorkers make strides. I hope funding for this initiative will be included in the budget.”


“We have a real opportunity to help close the gap that bred the tale of two cities narrative,” said Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. “As fares for public transit continue to rise, we are leaving those most in need of transit behind. From getting to jobs, healthcare, or school, accessible and affordable transportation is a ubiquitous need. It’s time to come together as a city and lift up those our transit system is leaving behind with their ballooning fares.”


“When a quarter of poor New Yorkers say they often can’t afford the bus or subway fare, it’s clear that we must take action,” said Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer. “Making half-price Metrocards available to low-income New Yorkers is a sensible solution to ease that burden and put money back into the pockets of the working poor. I have long fought for transit access and equity in the City Council, and will continue to push to make half-priced fares for low-income New Yorkers a reality.”


“NYC’s public transit system connects so many New Yorker’s in all five boroughs each and every day. Access to our subways and buses should never be a barrier for low-income New Yorker’s who have so much to gain from the opportunity of mobility,” said NYC Council Member Rafael Espinal, Chair of the Committee on Consumer Affairs. “I am proud to stand with CSS, Riders Alliance, my fellow advocates and elected officials, in urging NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio to implement reduced fares forlow-income New Yorkers in our next fiscal budget. This is a progressive and prudent step, that would go a long way to improve the lives of up to 800,000 New Yorkers and address our persistent problem of income inequality.”


Council Member Vincent Gentile said, “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. Reduced fares would enable those in need to travel to that job interview, get to that professional training class or go to the public library at an affordable cost. Fair Fares would simply give our most vulnerable individuals a better opportunity to succeed.”


“Subway or bus fare shouldn’t stand between low income New Yorkers and well-paying jobs. Yet, for many in our great City, transit fare has become a significant barrier to a better, more economically stable life. Reduced transit fare for low income New Yorkers is a program that makes sense, and will only help connect even more New Yorkers to the wide array of social, cultural, educational, and professional experiences New York City has to offer. I thank the Community Service Society of New York and the Riders Alliance for their advocacy on this important issue and hope that Mayor de Blasio considers the many positive benefits of providing reduced fare MetroCards to low income New Yorkers,” said Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson.


“For travel within the district that I represent, the only options are the car and the bus. Cars are expensive, and some residents only have the option of taking the bus. Commuting to work or school should not eat up a large portion of a household budget,” said Council Member Barry S. Grodenchik. “I therefore endorse the proposal for Fair Fares to provide low-income New Yorkers with a more affordable commute.”


“Here in New York, the cost of living is getting higher and higher every day,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “We need to find ways of retaining and accommodating our low-income residents, and that means making our public transportation system more affordable. For New Yorkers living at or below the poverty line, every dollar counts. A low-fare MetroCard option could make all the difference for low-income New Yorkers who depend on public transit to get to work, see their doctor, and visit family, while helping them afford other necessities like groceries and rent. I’m proud to stand with the Riders Alliance in calling for this much-needed budget item.”


“Low income New Yorkers are getting squeezed by record high rents and transportation costs that continue to rise,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “More than half of our City’s poor rely on public transportation to get to and from work every day, and the current rate of $2.75 per ride can take up to 10% of a commuter’s income. New York City should set aside funds to provide Fair Fares, so that low-income New Yorkers can move about the City without breaking the bank.”


“Subway fare is anything but fair for struggling New Yorkers, and more benefits should be available for our city’s lower-income residents,” said Council Member Rory I. Lancman. “Many riders can barely afford to commute to and from work each day but offering a reduced fare card will make the ride much smoother for hundreds of thousands of hard-working people in our city.”


“Healthcare, education, and economic opportunity are often a MetroCard swipe away,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “We should do everything we can to empower families and reduce barriers to getting around our city. Now, with yet another fare increase around the corner, it is time to stand firmly in support of low-income families.”


“With the cost of public transit rising but wages remaining stagnant, it is critical that the City give impoverished New Yorkers a much need break in their commuting costs,” said NYC Council Member Mark Levine. “New Yorkers who fall below the poverty line already face an incredible struggle to make ends meet, and with the cost of transit fares set to increase yet again next year, it is not going to get easier. By funding the cost of offering half-price MetroCards, eligible New Yorkers could save up to $700 annually, dramatically increasing their quality of life while also making it easier for them to find jobs otherwise inaccessible to them due to the cost of transit. I fully support the Fair Fare initiative, and I commend the Community Service Society and the Riders Alliance for championing this measure.”


Council Member Carlos Menchaca said, “紐約的低收入居民不能支付現在的地鐵票價以及未來MTA還計劃的加價。自2007年以來,地鐵和巴士票价的上漲比通貨膨脹快三倍,比紐約的工資快六倍。當家庭負擔不起公共交通時他們就錯失了就業機會,文化和教育資源,以及醫療保健和其他基本服務。人們不應該在吃飯,房租,醫療,和交通之間做出選擇。不久前,紐約注意到提供低票價地鐵票給老人,學生,和殘疾人士的好處。其他城市已經為低收入居民提供了低價地鐵票。紐約也應該如此/Low-income New Yorkers can’t afford today’s fares and they face years of planned MTA fare increases. Since 2007, subway and bus fares have risen three times faster than inflation and six times faster than NYC salaries. When families can’t afford transit they miss employment opportunities, skip cultural and educational resources, and lose access to healthcare and other essential services. Long ago, New York recognized the benefits of offering reduced fares to seniors, students and people with disabilities. People shouldn’t be forced to choose between food, rent, medicine and transportation. Others cities offer fare discounts for the low-income residents who rely most on public transit. New York should too./Neoyorquinos de bajos ingresos no pueden pagar las tarifas actuales y enfrentan aumentos en tarifas a largo plazo planeados por el MTA. Desde 2007, las tarifas de metro y autobús han aumentado tres veces más rápido que la inflación y seis veces más rápido que los sueldos de NYC. Cuando las familias no pueden cubrir el costo del transporte pierden oportunidades de empleo, dejan de acudir a recursos culturales y educacionales, y pierden el acceso a la asistencia médica y otros servicios esenciales. En el pasado, Nueva York reconocía el beneficio de ofrecer tarifas reducidas a las personas mayores, a estudiantes y a personas con discapacidades. La gente no debe ser forzada a elegir entre alimentos, la renta, la medicina y el transporte. Otras ciudades ofrecen tarifas reducidas para residentes de bajos ingresos quienes son los que dependen más del transporte público. Nueva York también debería hacerlo.”


“In too many neighborhoods across New York City, people are struggling to make ends meet while finding ways to simply have the money to commute to work every day,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. “Residents in low income communities may be forced to travel hours to get to work and we as a city need to do more to help ease their burden. Fair Fares will help families put food on the table and spend money at local businesses more often. As the most transit-dependent and Progressive city in the nation, this would be a great step toward helping to lift up our low-income New Yorkers.”


“Fair Fares is fundamental to expanding opportunity so that every New Yorker has a chance to succeed. Offering half-price MetroCards to low-income New Yorkers affords them greater options to pursue employment and educational opportunities, so I am proud to support Fair Fares”, said Council Member Rosenthal.


“Families are struggling, and the cost of a monthly Metrocard continues to climb,” said Council Member Rafael Salamanca, Jr. “It’s time we come together in support to make transportation more equitable for the families of our city, and fight for fair fares.”


“Being able to get to and from work and access transportation across the City is a necessity that is oftentimes out-of-reach forthe poorest New Yorkers. That needs to change and the City can make a difference by subsidizing MetroCards for residents living below the poverty line. Fair and equal access to transportation can help reduce income inequality in our City,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres.


“ACE’s serves men and woman re-entering the workforce. Employment is key to self-sufficiency and without access to affordable transportation the clients we serve cannot reach their goals,” said Tawana Jackson, of Association of Community Employment-Programs for the Homeless.


“Every year, thousands of our clients—all of whom are, by definition, indigent—are arrested for fare evasion and face direct and collateral punishment at significant costs to the individuals involved, their communities, and our city as a whole. The vast majority of people arrested for this offense are Black and/or Latino. Many are detained on Rikers Island at a cost of about $500 per day simply because they might not be able to afford a $2.75 subway fare. People can lose their children and jobs, and even be  deported for this crime of poverty. Brooklyn Defender Services is proud to join the Riders Alliance and the Community Service Society in calling on the Mayor to fund #FairFares and help make public transit the great equalizer in New York—not a feeder for the criminal justice system,” said Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services, a comprehensive public defense organization serving tens of thousands of clients in Brooklyn every year.


“Income-sensitive pricing has long been available for housing, food, health care and other basic human needs,” said Mark Winston Griffith, Executive Director of Brooklyn Movement Center, a Central Brooklyn-based community organizing group. “The fight for Fair Fares recognizes the role of affordable transportation in helping vulnerable New Yorkers escape some of the punishing limitations of poverty.”


“Affordable transportation helps to make New York City affordable and helps to keep lower-income New Yorkers in their homes and communities,” said Community Actions for Safe Apartments (CASA) Leader Fitzroy Christian.


Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, said, “FAC and NHN serve thousands of low income people annually, including many working poor New Yorkers who rely on the MTA to get to work. Fair Fares would ensure that all New Yorkers, regardless of income, can access the


MTA at half price and access the opportunities that public transit links people to. Please support this important effort.”


Ronald Deutsch, Executive Director of the Fiscal Policy Institute, said, “Affordable and accessible transportation is a necessity for low-income families. Too often struggling families have to make the choice between paying for transportation or paying for other life necessities. Given that the cost of a Metro Card is scheduled to rise next year, now is the perfect time to take steps to ensure that al of our residents can afford to get to work by supporting this common sense proposal.


“Access to affordable transportation options is critically important to the working poor, and especially to Latinas and Latinos whose network of job opportunities are already limited. Getting to work should not be an obstacle to any New Yorker who is prepared to work and contribute to our economy. So we urge the Mayor to provide the funds necessary to make transportation affordable,” said Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF.


“No one should have to choose between paying rent, buying food, and being able to get to work. An extensive transit system means little if it cannot serve the people who need it the most. Creating a discount system that provides greater transit access for our lowest income neighbors is a critical step toward transportation justice, one that the City can take this as part of the next upcoming budget,” said Elena Conte, Director of Policy at Pratt Center for Community Development.




Robert Gangi, Director of the Police Reform Organizing Project
, said, “Farebeating arrests are now the highest number of arrests by the NYPD. Most people jump the turnstile not for the thrill of it, but because the $5.50 cost of a round trip is a financial burden for them. Instead of punishing poor people who have to use the subway and buses, the city should have a supportive response and find a way to help low-income people of color make a better life for themselves.”


Catherine Barnett, Executive Director of ROC NY, said, “Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York is proud to stand with this broad coalition to support fair pricing for low wage workers. Restaurant workers, some of the City’s lowest income workers, are unduly burdened with the rising cost of public transit. To alleviate this burden, we strongly urge Mayor de Blasio to reduce fares for low-income workers. This along with state action to eliminate the sub-minimum wage for tipped restaurant workers would help thousands of New Yorkers get ahead economically.


“Mass transit is a great equalizer, connecting New Yorkers to schools, libraries, jobs, civic centers, and other critical resources. Yet too many New Yorkers, including thousands of college students, can’t afford the cost of a MetroCard swipe. Mayor de Blasio must prioritize access to transit for all New Yorkers, regardless of economic status,” said Jaqi Cohen, Campaign Associate at NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign.


“New York City is the nation’s most transit-dependent city, and lower-income New Yorkers rely more than anyone on our subways and buses. But the high cost of transit has become more of a barrier than


ever to economic advancement, a situation that’s going to get worse with more fare hikes on the way.


We urge Mayor de Blasio to support the Fair Fares initiative that the Community Service Society of New York and the Riders Alliance have proposed, and include funding in the Executive Budget to make half-price MetroCards available to the New Yorkers who need them most,” said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives.


“Folks who rely on public transportation should not have to sacrifice basic needs to travel to and from work or school,” said Kelley Williams, Executive Director of The West Side Commons.


The Unheard Third is scientific survey CSS conducts annually in collaboration with Lake Research Partners using Random Digit Dial (RDD). The survey was conducted using both landlines and cell phones from July 5 to August 10, 2016 and sampled 1,717 New York City residents ages 18 or older with a margin of error of +/- 2.36 percentage points.


For more information on the Unheard Third survey go to www.cssny.org/campaigns/entry/transit4all#data. To view a new CSS video featuring Riders Alliance members portraying public transportation hardships faced by low-income New Yorkers, go to https://youtu.be/J8oN0Z0Htp0.


For more than 170 years, the Community Service Society of New York has been the leading voice on behalf of low-income New Yorkers and continues to advocate for the economic security of the working poor in the nation’s largest city. We respond to urgent, contemporary challenges with applied research, advocacy, litigation and innovative program models that help the working poor achieve a better quality of life and promote a more prosperous city.


The Riders Alliance is a grassroots organization of subway and bus riders pushing for better service at affordable fares and a stronger public investment in mass transit. Visit us at ridersny.org 




For Immediate Release

September 29th, 2016

Students, Straphangers Campaign join push for half-priced MetroCardsfor low-income riders

#FairFares Photo tour expanded to include college students who show Mayor de Blasio the unfair choices low-income students face to afford public transit

Over 40,000 CUNY students live in households making < $10k annually

Manhattan, NY — Today marks the beginning of a city-wide tour of college campuses spearheaded by the Straphangers Campaign. Volunteers from the Straphangers Campaign stood outside Hunter College at the 68th Street 6 train station in Manhattan to announce the expansion of the #FairFares photo petition tour to college students. The tour was initiated by members of the Riders Alliance in August

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In the photos, low-income students told Mayor de Blasio how the cost of a MetroCard has been a barrier to their higher education. They took photos with the necessities (such as textbooks and meals) that they have had to sacrifice to afford a MetroCard.


As of 2014 (the most recently available data),  18% of CUNY students live below the federal poverty level (40,000 CUNY students are in fact living in households making 10,000 a year or less).  Forstudents from low-income families,  a monthly MetroCard, costing approximately $1400 each year is more than the average price of text books (approximately $1200 a year).


Many of these students are the first in their families to go to college. Although higher education is their key to better jobs and a better future,  without affordable fares, it’s difficult to even get to the classes they need to graduate.  The hardship is so great, that according to CUNY’s 2014 Student Experience Survey, 16% of all students transferring out of CUNY schools say they plan to transfer to a school closer to home or work.


Jaqi Cohen, Campaign Associate for the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, said, “Low-income students forgo meals, their textbooks or even skip class entirely. When we saw the #FairFares photo tour launch, our volunteers were inspired to help students share their stories with Mayor de Blasio. We know that education is the primary way in which people can pull themselves out of poverty. But the ticket, the MetroCard, is getting in the way. Creating a reduced-fare system has the potential forbenefiting thousands of CUNY students living below the federal poverty line, easing the already tremendous burden of paying for college.”


“Taking mass transit to class is a right, not a luxury. I don’t think deciding between getting to class and purchasing textbooks should be a choice I or any student should make. I have to carefully plan my route by walking a long time from the Bronx to Harlem so I only have to take one bus to the train instead of two. Mayor de Blasio: we need your help. Nobody should have to make these complicated calculations to get to school,” said Alejandro Brown, a sophomore at Hunter College.


According to a study released in April of this year by the Community Service Society of New York (CSS), one in four low-income New Yorkers reported being unable to travel to doctor’s appointments, jobs, college classes, and other necessities. The same report found that the cost of a 30-day unlimited MetroCard makes up over 10 percent of a family’s budget, forcing individuals to make sacrifices, including essentials like rent, food, textbooks, and other bills.  New York City provides limited use MetroCards to public school students under 18, but they are cut off once they graduate.


Rebecca Bailin, Campaign Manager of the Riders Alliance, said, “This is a crisis. If low-income students are unable to get to the classes that will help them get a job upon graduation, than there is no real opportunity for upward mobility. Mayor de Blasio has been looking for ways to help ease the growing economic inequality in this city. Luckily, #FairFares is a simple solution that will allow Mayor de Blasio to help low-income students, along with hundreds of thousands of other struggling New Yorkers, get ahead.”


CSS, the Riders Alliance, and 25 other organizations are calling on Mayor de Blasio to implement half-priced subway and bus fares for low-income New Yorkers. Today’s photo petition tour stop at Hunter College was the first of many opportunities for students to share how the high cost of a MetroCard is a barrier to higher education—and explain how discount fares can help.


The Straphangers Campaign is a transit advocacy group that trains college students across New York City to advocate for safe, reliable, and affordable subways and buses.




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 3rd, 2016

Riders Alliance Launches #FairFares Subway Tour to Collect Photo Petitions to Mayor de Blasio

Low-income transit riders will comprise photo series showing Mayor de Blasio the unfair choices they make to pay forMetroCards

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Bronx, NY —  Today, Riders Alliance members launched a tour of subway stations that serve low-income neighborhoods, where they collected hundreds of “photo petitions” to Mayor de Blasio. In the photos, riders shared the sacrifices they have had to make in order to afford their MetroCards.


According to a study released in April of this year by the Community Service Society of New York (CSS), one in four low-income New Yorkers reported being unable to travel to doctor’s appointments, jobs, and other necessities. The same report found that the cost of a 30-day unlimited MetroCard makes up over 10 percent of a family’s budget, forcing individuals to make sacrifices, including on essentials like rent, food, and other bills.


The tour began today in the Bronx, which is marked by high levels of poverty, starting at the 2/4 station at 149th Street and Grand Concourse in the Bronx, where the average income is $16,580 according to a New Yorker infographic. Riders Alliance volunteers collected petition signatures for the “Fair Fares” campaign Supporters then headed to the makeshift photo-booth to send their message to Mayor de Blasio.


Announcing the launch of the tour on Wednesday, Rebecca Bailin, Campaign Manager at the Riders Alliance, said, “We are out here to show Mayor de Blasio the stories of New Yorkers for whom a discount fare would make all the difference. People shouldn’t have to think through elaborate calculations, walk miles in the heat, or forgo meals to get around. That an entire population of New Yorkers is unable to use our subways and buses without resorting to these difficult choices means that we are denying communities the only link they have to economic opportunity, medical care and New York City’s culture. But it doesn’t have to be this way and Mayor de Blasio can help struggling New Yorkers get ahead.”


Christine Guillaume, a Riders Alliance member and social work student from the Bronx, said, “I am fighting for Fair Fares because as a struggling New Yorker with a 3 year old son, public transit has become a barrier. There have been times where I had to hop on the back of the bus because I didn’t have enough money to get to class.  And it’s not just me. My heart breaks when I see my neighbors, well dressed, begging for swipes to get to work or to a job interview. My community needs discount fares. In this city, where the subway or bus is the only way to get around,it isn’t right that we have to risk arrest or beg forswipes for trying to get ahead.  I hope these photos will help Mayor de Blasio see the faces of struggling New Yorkers.”


CSS’s most recent citywide survey, the Unheard Third, found that that the consequences of being unable to afford the MetroCard were especially severe for low-income working age blacks and Latinos, with 31 percent of African-Americans and 43 percent of Latinos reporting that the cost of MTA fares kept them from looking for or taking a job further from the neighborhoods where they live.


“Our research shows that transit affordability is becoming a real barrier to jobs and upward mobility,” said CSS Senior Labor Economist Harold Stolper, principal author of the CSS report The Transit Affordability Crisis. “The city is fortunate to have an extensive public transit system moving more than six million people a day. Yet, fares are not affordable to the working poor – for a single earner at the poverty level, an unlimited MetroCard would consume 12 percent or more of their income. We found that 28 percent of the city’s working age, low-income riders say they can’t afford fares.  A reduced fare would help those struggling to stay out of poverty get ahead economically.”


CSS’s report, “The Transit Affordability Crisis,” documents the heavy burden that transit fares place on the already-strained budgets of low-income New Yorkers, and the consequences of this burden on their daily lives. According to the study, low-income riders are the most “transit-dependent” of any New York population, with fully 58 percent relying on the subway or bus. For these individuals, the cost of a MetroCard makes up 10 percent of their budget, forcing many riders to make tough choices between transit and other necessities, thus limiting their access to economic opportunity.


“The Transit Affordability Crisis” describes how other large cities—including Seattle, San Francisco, and London— have eased the burden on low-income families through fare discount programs and introduces a similar fare discount proposal forlow-income


subway and bus riders on the MTA. A half-fare discount program targeted to poor New Yorkers would save those who take advantage of it as much as $700 a year off the cost of 12 monthly passes.


An estimated 800,000 adults would be eligible for the reduced fares, though the number of eligible individuals who ultimately participate in the program will depend heavily on how the program is designed and implemented. Assuming a take-up rate among regular subway and bus users comparable to that for benefits like food stamps, the study estimates that 361,000 riders would participate at a cost of roughly $194 million a year in foregone farebox revenue. The report suggests several possible sources of additional revenue for the MTA to offset lost revenue in order to avoid the need to raise fares for other riders to cover the cost of the discounts.


The Fair Fares coalition is supported by the following organizations: Brooklyn Movement Center, Bronx Defenders, Brooklyn Defender Services, Community Action for Safe Apartments, Community Voices Heard, Fifth Avenue Committee, Make the Road New York, Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, The New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, Pratt Center for Community Development, Police Reform Organizing Project, Straphangers Campaign


Transportation Alternatives, Transportation Workers Union Local 100, Tri-State Transportation Campaign ,VOCAL-NY ,WE ACT for Environmental Justice.


For more than 170 years, the Community Service Society of New York has been the leading voice on behalf of low-income New Yorkers and continues to advocate for the economic security of the working poor in the nation’s largest city. We respond to urgent, contemporary challenges with applied research, advocacy, litigation, and innovative program models that help the working poor achieve a better quality of life and promote a more prosperous city.


The Riders Alliance is a grassroots organization of subway and bus riders, pushing for better service at affordable fares and a stronger public investment in mass transit. Visit us at ridersny.org




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 10, 2016

Community Service Society, Riders Alliance Launch “Fair Fares” Campaign for Reduced-Fare MetroCards for Lowest-Income New Yorkers

New report finds 1 in 4 low-income New Yorkers can’t afford MetroCards; an estimated 800,000 riders would be eligible for a half-price fare for lowest-income New Yorkers, saving those who opt to participate up to $700 per year

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New York, NY — On the heels of a new report showing that 1 in 4 low-income New Yorkers cannot afford to use public transportation, prominent local advocates Community Service Society and Riders Alliance announced a new campaign today to win “Fair Fares,” a campaign for reduced-fare MetroCards that would be available to the city’s working poor.


Today’s rally comes as Community Service Society of New York (CSS), a research and advocacy organization that works to spur upward mobility for low-income New Yorkers, releases a new report, “The Transit Affordability Crisis.” The report finds that over a quarter of low-income New Yorkers were often unable to afford the subway or bus in the past year, limiting many New Yorkers’ opportunities to get good jobs and affordable housing and, in many cases, forcing them to choose between transit and other necessities. CSS’s most recent citywide survey, the Unheard Third, found that that the consequences were especially severe for low-income working age blacks and Latinos, with 31 percent of African-Americans and 43 percent of Latinos reporting that the cost of MTA fares kept them from looking for or taking a job further from the neighborhoods where they live.


At Sunday’s rally, CSS and members of the Riders Alliance, a grassroots membership organization of subway and bus riders, announced the release of the study and called for Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council to establish a program that would allow riders below the federal poverty level to purchase half-fare MetroCards.


The new study, “The Transit Affordability Crisis,” principally authored by CSS Senior Labor Economist Harold Stolper, uses data collected through CSS’s scientific survey to document the heavy burden that transit fares place on the already strained budgets of low-income New Yorkers, and the consequences of this burden on their daily lives. The report complements this data-driven analysis with low-income riders’ own stories of hardship to demonstrate that the high—and increasing—cost of a MetroCard makes public transportation inaccessible to New York’s neediest riders. According to the study, low-income riders are the most “transit dependent” of any New York population, with fully 58 percent relying on the subway or bus. For these individuals, the cost of a MetroCard makes up 10 percent of their budget, forcing many riders to make tough choices between transit and other necessities, limiting their access to economic opportunity.


“The Transit Affordability Crisis” describes how other large cities—including Seattle, San Francisco, and London— have eased the burden on low-income families through fare discount programs, and introduces a similar fare discount proposal for low-income subway and bus riders on the MTA.


A half-fare discount program targeted to poor New Yorkers would save those who take advantage of it as much as $700 a year off the cost of 12 monthly passes. An estimated 800,000 adults would be eligible for the reduced fares. The number of eligible individuals who ultimately participate in the program will depend heavily on how the program is designed and implemented, but assuming a take-up rate among regular subway and bus users comparable to that for benefits like food stamps, we estimate that 361,000 riders would participate at a cost of roughly $194 million a year in foregone farebox revenue. Several possible sources of additional revenue for the MTA are suggested to offset lost revenue in order to avoid the need to raise fares for other riders to cover the cost of the discounts.


“Economic mobility and transit affordability go hand in hand. To get to work, pick up your kids from school, go to the doctor, to do almost everything you need to do in New York City to survive requires riding the subway or bus, “ said David R. Jones, President and CEO of the Community Service Society. “Yet one-quarter of the city’s working poor often cannot afford bus and subway fare. The MTA should be available to everyone in our city, not just those with credit cards in their pocket who can afford a monthly pass, but to those with a few bucks in their pockets who are struggling to take care of their families and get ahead.”


Low-income transit riders’ life experiences back up the report’s key findings. Leslie Wells, a 44-year old substitute teacher and Riders Alliance member from Central Harlem, said, “I can barely afford to make ends meet to support my 14 year old son. The rising cost of a MetroCard is a big chunk of my salary. When I don’t have the money for the fare, I just don’t go to work. The hidden message is that the working poor should not be living in New York City.”


Importantly, the report demonstrates that low-income New Yorkers are left out of programs that already provide many New Yorkers with substantial fare relief: half-priced discounts on MetroCards are already available to seniors and persons with disabilities, in addition to pre-tax transit benefits that save middle-class New Yorkers hundreds of dollars on their MetroCards. And the fare structure itself offers the deepest discounts to more affluent riders who can afford to lay out money for a monthly unlimited pass. “Sometimes I have to decide either to buy a MetroCard or spend on food or rent,” said Riders Alliance member Manny Aguilar, a 49-year-old immigrant from Queens. “It’s not an easy choice, and I’m not the only one making it: lots of people in the neighborhood are getting arrested for hopping the turnstile. We need a program like this.”


At today’s rally, riders announced the launch of a petition calling on Mayor de Blasio and the City Council to support a “Fair Fare” for low-income New Yorkers. In addition to CSS and Riders Alliance, Public Advocate Letitia James and Comptroller Scott Stringer as well as numerous advocacy groups expressed support for Fair Fares, including the Bronx Defenders, Brooklyn


Defenders Services, the Brooklyn Movement Center, Community Action for Safe Apartments, Community Voices Heard, Fifth Avenue Committee, Make the Road NY, the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, Pratt Center, The Police Reform Organizing Project, Transportation Alternatives, Transport Workers Union Local 100, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, and VOCAL-NY. Riders can sign the petition and share their stories at www.cssny.org/transit4all  or www.ridersny.org/fairfares.


“This city relies on public transportation, and yet too often New Yorkers are forced to choose between going to work putting food on the table,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “I thank Community Service Society and Riders Alliance for drawing attention to this important issue. We must work together to ensure that every New Yorker has the ability to move around our City.”


“As subway and bus fares continue to rise, far too many New Yorkers are left to choose between paying the rent and buying a MetroCard,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “Half-priced fares for low-income families will put up to $700 a year directly in the pockets of New Yorkers who need it the most. I applaud Community Service Society and Riders Alliance for their leadership and urge MTA to join transit agencies from Seattle, San Francisco, and elsewhere in expanding their half-price MetroCard program.”


“Transportation costs dramatically affect our clients’ lives, from those who cannot pay to get on a subway and end up getting arrested for jumping a turnstile, to those who have to choose between feeding their children and paying the fares to get to court. This is what life is like for many Bronx residents. We should ensure that millions of low-income New Yorkers are not forced to make these impossible choices,” said Karume James, Lead Organizer and Attorney at the Bronx Defenders.


“Every year, thousands of our clients—all of whom are, by definition, indigent—are arrested for fare evasion and face direct and collateral punishment at significant costs to the individuals involved, their communities, and our city as a whole. The vast majority of people arrested for this offense are Black and/or Latino. Many are detained on Rikers Island at a cost of about $500 per day simply because they might not be able to afford a $2.75 subway fare. People can lose their children and jobs, and even be deported for this crime of poverty. The answer is simple: Reinvest the funds spent on enforcement and punishment in making public transit affordable for all New Yorkers,” said Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services, a comprehensive public defense organization serving 40,000 clients in Brooklyn every year.


“The Brooklyn Movement Center is fighting for a Central Brooklyn in which long time residents can survive the onslaught of gentrification. Reduced fares should be a part of our city’s anti-displacement strategy,” said Mark Winston Griffith, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Movement Center.


“Affordable transportation helps to make New York City affordable and helps to keep lower-income New Yorkers in their homes and communities,” said CASA Leader Fitzroy Christian.


“It is very important to have reduced fares for MTA for low-income people because people can’t afford to ride the train. Low-income people just can’t afford it. It would help people to live in the city because they would be better able to go to work, doctor’s and do whatever they need to do,” said Ketny Jean-Francois, Community Voices Heard leader and resident of Linden Houses in Brooklyn.


“Improving the transit mobility of low-income New Yorkers will boost their access to opportunities for upward economic mobility. Making mass transit more affordable for struggling residents will also yield dividends for the entire city in the future,” said James Parrott, PHD, Deputy Director and Chief Economist of the Fiscal Policy Institute.


“It is profoundly unjust that working New Yorkers like myself end up paying more for public transportation because we live pay check to pay check and can’t spend $110 on a monthly pass. I fought to raise the minimum wage, but will still struggle to make ends meet if we don’t control metro costs,” said Amador Rivas, a member of Make the Road New York.


“Farebeating arrests are now the highest number of arrests by the NYPD — over 29,000 in 2015, 92% involving people of color. Most people jump the turnstile not for the thrill of it, but because the $5.50 cost of a round trip is a financial burden for them. These arrests are, in effect, one of the principal ways that the city & the NYPD criminalize low-income New Yorkers of color,” said Robert Gangi, Director of the Police Reform Organizing Project.


“No one should have to choose between paying rent, buying food, and being able to get to work. Right now, far too many New Yorkers are trying to make those impossible choices. A healthy city is a just and inclusive city, and an extensive transit system means little if it cannot serve the people who need it the most. Creating a discount system that provides greater transit access for our lowest income neighbors is a critical step toward transportation justice,” said Elena Conte, Director of Policy at Pratt Center for Community Development.    


“Affordable housing for New York City? Of course, it’s essential. Affordable health care? Yes, indeed. Access to healthy foods at a reasonable price? Good jobs? Great open space? Yes, yes. But without decent, reliable and affordable public transit, you simply can’t get from here to there, to all those things that make it possible to live and thrive in New York City,” said Cate Contino Cowit, an organizer with the Straphangers Campaign.


“Keeping bus and subway fares affordable means more than fighting unjust fare hikes and reduced government support for transit. It’s about ensuring access to opportunity for the most economically distressed New Yorkers is not contingent on the cost of a MetroCard swipe. We hope such a proposal can be examined for those commuter rail users for whom a distance-based fare consumes a disproportionate share of their household income, as well,” said Veronica Vanterpool, Executive Director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.


“The Transit Workers Union understands how difficult it is for many low-wage workers to pay for their daily commutes, and the need for public transit to be affordable to all workers. We stand with CSS and their partners to make public transit more affordable for low-wage New Yorkers as well as a way to end economic inequality in the city,” said Marvin Holland, Political & Legislative Director, TWU Local 100.


“I believe all New Yorkers should have accessible and affordable transit options that maximize their ability to go to work, school, and recreational venues throughout the city. A reduced fare card for low- income NYERS will increase their ability to access the regional transit system. This will ensure all low- income transit riders have access to an affordable, viable transit option,” said Louis Bailey, Community Organizer & Outreach Coordinator for WE ACT For Environmental Justice.


Key findings from “The Transit Affordability Crisis”:



  • Low Income Riders can’t afford their MetroCard even though they rely heavily on public transportation:





    • 58% of low-income New Yorkers rely on subways and buses to get around the city

    • Transit expenses for New York’s more than 300,000 working poor often exceed 10 percent of their annual budget.

    • One out of four low-income working-age New Yorkers reported that they were often unable to afford a MetroCard, and one of three said that this kept them from looking for or taking a job further from where they live.

    • Among low-income New Yorkers, Latinos are more than 5 times as likely as whites to report that the transit fare prevented them from carrying out important responsibilities.





  • Populations that already receive discounts on the subway or bus:





    • Seniors (65+), people with disabilities, and students under 18 are already eligible for discounted MetroCards.

    • Many middle-class New Yorkers who fall under the Commuter Benefits law that went into effect in January of 2016 can purchase MetroCards using pre-tax earnings.



  • The proposal for “Fair Fares” for low-income New Yorkers: 

    • NYC residents who are between the ages of 18 and 64 with incomes at or below the federal poverty level would be eligible for half-price fares on MTA buses and subways

    • A half-price fare would save eligible riders as much as $700 annually—this is half the cost of a year’s worth of 30-day unlimited MetroCards.

    • Assuming a take-up rate among regular subway and bus users comparable to that for benefits like food stamps, we estimate that 361,000 riders would participate at a cost of roughly $194 million per year in forgone farebox revenue.

    • Extending the eligibility threshold up to 130% of the federal poverty level—the same income criteria used by HRA to determine eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—would raise the number of newly eligible individuals to 1.08 million, at a cost of roughly $265 million per year.

    • City and State funding sources could be used to cover the cost of a discount program. Costs may be offset by $48 million that HRA is already spending to fund MetroCards for

      low-income individuals who participate in job training or educational programs, and for qualified trips for medical appointments covered by Medicaid.