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Fair Fares Program Is Supposed To Start In 2019, But The City Has Yet To Release A Plan

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson
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City Council Speaker Corey Johnson far right

With just a few weeks left in the year, advocates for the Fair Fares program are asking the city: Where’s the plan?

When Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council agreed on a budget for 2019, it included $212 million to fund a program to provide half-priced MetroCards to low income New Yorkers. But ever since the July handshake deal, the de Blasio administration hasn’t released any information about the program, how to apply, when it goes into effect, or which MetroCards will be available for a discount.

“We write now with deep concern that, with less than a month before the scheduled launch, we have not yet seen a plan to offer all eligible New Yorkers an opportunity to enroll in Fair Fares,” the Community Service Society wrote in a letter to the mayor, which was signed by dozens of advocates and dated December 12th.

“The Fair Fares program is fully funded and we expect it to be fully implemented in a timely way.”

At an MTA board meeting in November, the MTA's Senior Vice President for Operations Support, Tim Mulligan, revealed that program will only include 7-day and 30-day passes, not single rides, which advocates say most low income New Yorkers rely on.

“Of all New Yorkers, those in poverty can least afford to lay out money for transit fares a full week or month in advance. The City and MTA should take the steps necessary to extend Fair Fares to as many ticket options as possible to meet the needs of eligible riders,” Community Service Society wrote in its letter.

The Community Service Society came up with the idea for half-price MetroCards and had advocated for it for over three years.

New Yorkers living at or below the federal poverty level—which represents an annual income of $25,100 for a family of four—would qualify for the program, which is expected to be administered by the city’s Human Resources Administration.

The mayor’s office, which had initially opposed the program, hasn’t returned emails for comment.

In a statement, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson apologized for the delay. “I hear the advocates’ concerns, and we are working to address them,” Johnson said.

An MTA spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Update: The Mayor's office said in a statement, "We hear the advocates’ concerns and are taking them seriously. We’re prepared to launch the program in January and will have details to announce soon."

Stephen Nessen is the transportation reporter for WNYC. You can follow him on Twitter @s_nessen.

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