Hundreds of thousands of more New Yorkers are now eligible for a half-priced MetroCard.
One year after the program's botched roll out, City Council members on Monday announced the full expansion of Fair Fares. As of today, all New Yorkers living at or below the federal poverty line can apply online for a discounted MetroCard.
Roughly 100,000 people have already signed up for the benefit, which was previously available only to SNAP or cash assistance recipients, and select veterans, CUNY students, and NYCHA residents.
An estimated 800,000 will now meet the income guidelines—a max of $26,200 for a family of four and $17,240 for a family of two. Unlike other reduced fare programs, such as Seattle’s, New York’s program does not currently target individuals above the poverty line.
At a press conference announcing the expansion on Monday, Rhonda Jackson, a formerly homeless woman, said she'd just used her phone to apply for the program.
"As a mother and a grandmother, I cannot express the frustration I sometimes felt not being able to get around," she said. "Sometimes I had to make a choice between a MetroCard or seeing my grandchildren, which wasn't fair. Having Fair Fares means I have the freedom to travel affordably in my wonderful city."
Pedro Valdez-Rivera, a Bed-Stuy NYCHA resident and early Fair Fares recipient, said that the card had changed his life. "We saved hundreds of dollars immediately," he said. "We continue to use it every single day."
The program was initially funded with a $106 million allocation from City Hall, following a tense fight between Mayor Bill de Blasio, who initially opposed the expenditure, and Council Speaker Corey Johnson. Of note to some observers, the mayor did not attend Monday's press conference marking the full roll out.
MTA Chief Operating Officer Mario Péloquin praised the expansion in a statement. “The MTA is committed to providing the most affordable transportation options possible to all New Yorkers who rely on us to get where they need to go, including work, doctors, school, and more," he said, pointing to other programs that offer discounted fares to senior citizens and free MetroCards for students.
The transit agency has recently faced criticism for spending more than $600 million over the next decade to flood the subway with 500 new cops. “Instead of spending all that money on all that advertising and all those police officers in the station to combat fare evasion, why not invest it in the program that will help people be able to access public transportation?” one Fair Fares recipient, Mike Gonzalez, recently wondered to Gothamist.
According to Johnson, the money allocated to Fair Fares has not been fully exhausted by the initial 100,000 enrollees. "We think that number will go up significantly with open enrollment," the speaker said. "That's when we'll determine what we're fighting for in the budget on the annual basis."
"I want anyone in poverty to sign up and get that half-priced MetroCard to help you and your family moving forward," he added.
You can find out if you're eligible here.