Advocates Celebrate Funding of MetroCards for the Poor

Sonia Medrano, a leader with New York Communities for Change and an MTA customer.
(Photo via El Diario)

Sonia Medrano, a Dominican immigrant living in Brooklyn, is still in shock after learning that the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio will fund the Fair Fares project, which will issue half-price MetroCards to the poorest New Yorkers.

“It has been a very tough fight, and we are here to celebrate that we will have some respite from the agony of not having the money we need to move around,” said Medrano, who is a leader at New York Communities for Change (NYCC).

Like her, dozens of advocates of public transport users gathered on Tuesday at the Fulton Street subway station along with elected officials to celebrate the agreement reached by the mayor and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson to spend $106 million of the 2019 budget to finance the so-called “MetroCards for the poor.”

The amount will cover the first six months of the program starting in January 2019 by offering half-price subway and bus fares to New Yorkers living under the federal poverty level, that is, people with annual earnings of $24,339 or less for a family of four.

The City Council estimates that nearly 800,000 people will be eligible for the program and that it could save them up to $726 per year in MetroCard expenses.

Johnson looked quite moved as he listened to the testimony of Darlene Jackson, a single mother of two from the Bronx who spoke about the weekly hardship she endures in order to pay for public transportation.

“I work part-time and I am college educated and I still can’t afford my MetroCard,” the commuter told the political leader, who was tearing up. “Thank you to Speaker Johnson and the entire City Council for fighting so passionately for Fair Fares and keeping struggling New Yorkers like myself in mind.”

For his part, Johnson said he was grateful for the support he received from other council members, adding that this victory goes beyond politics. “I am proud that my first budget as speaker is one that strengthens the social safety net and champions a New York for all.”

Funding for the Fair Fares program will come from the $89 billion municipal budget, which the mayor announced on Monday after reaching an agreement with the City Council.

“We have to make New York City a city that works for all 8.6 million New Yorkers because, at the end of the day, fairness will determine our future,” said de Blasio, adding: “Today, with the funding of Fair Fares we’re taking another big step toward making this the fairest big city in America.”

In addition to the discounted MetroCards, the city also allocated another $254 million for the MTA.

Council member Ydanis Rodríguez, chair of the Council’s Committee on Transportation, pointed out that this fight began two years ago and that they will continue working to obtain more funding to finance the program for many years.

“I am proud to stand by the Community Service Society and Riders Alliance as a longtime ally in celebrating this win for New Yorkers for whom the choice between an MTA fair and a necessity just got a little easier,” said Rodríguez.

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