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Poor New Yorkers Mired in 'Transit Affordability Crisis,' Activists Say

By Gary Kane | April 11, 2016 4:17pm
 A new report argues that low-income New Yorkers often cannot afford the escalating cost of a MetroCard.
A new report argues that low-income New Yorkers often cannot afford the escalating cost of a MetroCard.
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MANHATTAN — New York City is experiencing a “transit affordability crisis,” according to a new report that argues that many low-income residents forego medical care and job opportunities because they cannot afford subway and bus fares.

A network of activists are citing the report in calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to support the creation of reduced-fare MetroCards for people living below the poverty level.

The “Fair Fare” campaign has the backing of Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James. 

For more than 300,000 of the city’s working poor, transit fares often exceed more than 10 percent of their family budgets, according to the report, released Sunday by the Community Services Society and the Riders Alliance.

The activists argue that one in four low-income New Yorkers cannot afford MetroCards.

“The financial burden that MetroCard expenses put on the already strained budgets of poor New Yorkers is reaching critical levels,” the report states.

Furthermore, 27 percent of unemployed New Yorkers said the high cost of transit fares prevented them from looking for or taking a job, the report states.

The advocacy groups are proposing half-price fares for eligible residents — those living below the federal poverty level.

"The Riders Alliance and the Community Service Society have put together an interesting proposal, and we look forward to reviewing the report in greater detail," a de Blasio spokesperson said in a statement Monday.

A 2014 survey found that two out of three New Yorkers support a reduced-fare program for low-wage workers, the report notes.

Advocates point out that other U.S. cities and London already offer discounted transit fares to low-income residents.

“Moreover, the state and city governments are already subsidizing transit for relatively more affluent commuters through pre-tax commuter benefits,” the report states. “And the MTA offers a fare structure that gives the deepest discounts to those who can afford to lay out more money in advance to purchase monthly passes.”