A resolution introduced this month by a Bronx city councilmember calls on the MTA to create a donation system for New Yorkers to fund MetroCards for low-income riders.
"Public transit fare has increased three times since 2009, causing low income New Yorkers to spend more of their family budget on transit expenses," Fernando Cabrera told AM New York, which first reported the story. "Currently there are no programs to help poor New Yorkers with public transit costs."
The resolution, which is symbolic because the MTA is controlled at the state level, also calls for a collection system for unused MetroCards with hanging balances. The MTA did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but spokesman Kevin Ortiz told the outlet that the MTA will "look at all fare media ideas during our next round of fare adjustments slated for next year."
Advocates argue that the reduced-fare options already in place in NYC exclude the city's most cash-strapped commuters. For example, many employers are required to offer a tax deduction for commuting expenses—a benefit for New Yorkers with full-time jobs, primarily middle- and upper-class. Reductions for the elderly and disabled exclude many of the working poor, and monthly unlimited passes offer savings for those who can afford putting up $116.50 at once at the beginning of the month.
The donation proposal comes on the heels of a campaign spearheaded by the Riders Alliance and the Community Service Society, calling on the city to establish a half-price MetroCard program for the working poor. According to a report released in conjunction with the joint Riders Alliance-Community Service Society campaign [PDF], about 800,000 New Yorkers, excluding seniors and the disabled, live at or below the federal poverty threshold, or $11,880 for a single adult. Under the proposed plan, a single ride would cost about $1.35; riders who purchase monthly cards could save up to $700 per year.
Rebecca Bailin of the Riders Alliance said Tuesday that while Cabrera's resolution is encouraging, her group is still pushing for a broader policy change. "We appreciate the thinking. We think he's really on the right track," she said, adding that with a new half-fare policy, "people can have a way to apply, and it's fair and not ad hoc."
"If it happens soon that's really big news," she said. "He's fighting for this issue."