Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Johnson Launch Fair Fares Program for Low-Income New Yorkers

January 4, 2019

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson held a joint appearance Friday afternoon to announce the details of an unprecedented City effort to address poverty through the development of a half-priced MetroCard program for low-income New Yorkers.

During the first phase, the City will provide discounted MetroCards to working New Yorkers at or below the federal poverty level who are receiving cash assistance or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits from the New York City Department of Social Services. The City is committed to expanding the program to as many New Yorkers as possible in future phases and is already developing the infrastructure to make that possible.

The Fair Fares NYC MetroCard will allow participants to purchase unlimited weekly and monthly passes at a 50 percent discount at MTA vending machines. The cards can be used on any New York City subway or non-express bus. The City is working with the MTA to phase in a pay-per-ride option, which it expects to launch in April. 

“New Yorkers shouldn’t have to choose between a ride on the subway or bus and their next meal,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “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 is a groundbreaking program that will help New Yorkers who need it most. I couldn’t be prouder to stand with Mayor de Blasio, my colleagues in the Council, and advocates to launch its first phase. 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. I thank the Mayor and his team for their support and members of the Council for prioritizing this program in budget negotiations, but most of all, I want to thank advocates like Community Service Society and the Riders Alliance. Their hard work and dedication made Fair Fares a reality, and we stand united in making it a success and open to every New Yorker living in poverty,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

“The Fair Fares program will greatly help many low income working New Yorkers for whom the cost of a MetroCard is a burden and sometimes infeasible for already tight budgets,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio. “We are completely committed to this important program plan, and are working diligently to make sure it is fully implemented as quickly as possible.”

“This program will provide thousands of eligible New Yorkers affordable access to public transportation which will be a lifeline for people living in poverty to achieve their full potential,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “We’re making this program a reality and carrying out our commitment to fight poverty and income inequality in our City.”

Last spring, the Mayor and Council announced a plan to fund $106 million for the Fair Fares NYC program in the first year. On Friday morning, the Department of Social Services started contacting 30,000 eligible working New Yorkers who are receiving cash assistance benefits. The notifications, and subsequent telephone calls, will inform this group of their eligibility and invite them to visit the nearest Fair Fares NYC location to receive their half-priced MetroCard. Eligible recipients can also call 311 to assist in receiving their card. In April, an additional estimated 130,000 working New Yorkers who are receiving SNAP benefits will receive notifications about how to access their cards.

"The implementation of Fair Fares starting will enable our most vulnerable populations to be able to access the subway and bus service systems without the worry of affordability. The overall goal is to increase equity in public transportation and decrease the gap of inequality that exists in New York City," said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair of the Committee on Transportation. "Two years in the making, the Fair Fares program empowers New Yorkers and eliminates an impediment when commuting to work, school or an appointment. It's a win-win for all."

"Fair Fares is now a reality in New York City," said Council Member Daniel Dromm, Chair of the Committee on Finance. "These discounted MetroCards will make bus and subway fares more affordable for thousands of low income New Yorkers who rely upon mass transit each day.  Fair Fares has long been a priority of the Council and I am thrilled to see it come into fruition.  It has been a pleasure to work alongside Speaker Johnson, Mayor de Blasio and many other colleagues and advocates to move this important effort forward."

“This announcement is welcome news for thousands of New Yorkers. Access to food, housing support, and health care are essential public benefits, and with this program, we’ll soon make sure that transportation is a benefit accessible to all too,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “I applaud the Mayor and the Speaker of the City Council for their work in fighting for all New Yorkers – and as General Welfare Chair I commit to ensuring the Department of Social Services has the tools they need to successfully implement this program citywide.”

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