The price of a single MetroCard swipe will likely jump to $3.00 next year, prompting members of the MTA Board to talk seriously about the possibility of subsidizing bus and subway trips for New Yorkers living below the poverty line—a "social fare" that transit advocates have been pushing for since the spring. "I have reason to believe that everyone on this board is sensitive to the social fare issue," MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast said at a board meeting earlier this month. "So the question is how do we address it?"

One proposal would establish a half-price MetroCard program for the City's working poor—about 800,000 New Yorkers, excluding seniors and the disabled, who live at or below the federal poverty threshold, or $11,880 per year for a single adult. A joint study [PDF] released in conjunction with the campaign found that more than a quarter of low-income, working New Yorkers were unable to afford subway or bus fare at least once in 2015.

"Because the MTA is cash-strapped, we're saying that it makes sense for the program to be run by the city," Riders Alliance member Rebecca Bailin told us this spring. "If we're helping folks with housing and food, why not help them with this basic necessity?"

But while advocates have urged the city to front the estimated $200 million subsidy, city and state-appointed board members have sparred about who should pony up. And on Monday night, Mayor de Blasio said the social fare would be too expensive for the city to fund alone. Speaking to NY1's Errol Lewis on "Inside City Hall," de Blasio suggested that this responsibility should fall to the MTA, the leadership of which is state-appointed.

"Let me say on the surface obviously it's a very impressive idea," he allowed. "That being said, here's the problem: One, the MTA should be responsible for the MTA." He continued:

An additional $200 million is going to be very, very hard to find in the city's budget. That doesn't mean the MTA can't consider it as a priority. But for the city it's going to be tough. A noble idea, a commendable idea, we're going to look at it in the budget process, but it's a tough one.

Riders Alliance spokesperson Nick Sifuentes saw a silver lining in the mayor's comments. "The mayor is calling this a noble proposal and we're glad to see that," he said. "We think there are ways to get this done with the City Council, and we think we can make it happen."

The campaign has the support of 27 City Council members. Among them is Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, who stated earlier this month that transit is a "public good" and that New York "needs to begin treating it as such with investments that make it accessible to all."

But both the Mayor's Office and the MTA declined to directly address their willingness or ability to fund reduced fare MetroCards this week, instead rehashing their recent monetary contributions to NYC's public transit.

"Last year, in addition to the nearly $1 billion that the City provides the MTA annually for its operations, we committed an unprecedented $2.5 billion towards the agency's capital plan," said Mayoral Spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein. As for the reduced fare plan, "This proposal will be evaluated as part of the fare-setting process for the MTA as well as the State and City budgets."

"The MTA already makes a substantial commitment to low-income City riders," wrote MTA Spokeswoman Beth DeFalco in an email. "Including $625 million annually MTA spends to subsidize services primarily available for NYC-only residents." Among those services are free fares for schoolchildren and Access-A-Ride for elderly and disabled New Yorkers, which is priced equivalent to public transit.

The Governor's Office deferred comment to the MTA.

But based on Governor Cuomo's recent MTA investments—in commuter line repairs, station renovations, and on-train perks like WiFi—MTA watchdog William Henderson said he doubts the state will jump right in with its own money if the city refuses to fund reduced fares.

"If the city is unwilling to pay for it, it's going to be difficult to find a funding source that's acceptable," Henderson, who directs the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, predicted. "The state has paid for a number of things recently and has a lot of commitments out there."

Another option would be to increase fares for riders, in order to subsidize those living at or below the poverty line—an option Henderson said was far from ideal.

"If there is no additional state support for a program, essentially some riders are going to subsidize others," he said. "You're potentially setting up a situation where people just above the poverty line are paying higher fares so people just below are getting a subsidy. And that's a troubling scenario."