UPPER EAST SIDE — Hunter College biology student Vamshi Guduru says he's had to choose between eating lunch and riding the subway to school.
Each month, the Queens resident has to purchase a $116 MetroCard so he can get to class, but doing so means less food and sometimes no groceries, he told DNAinfo New York on Thursday.
"Some days when I go to class, I have to starve for the entire day," he said. "I'm a full-time student so I can't work all the time and 80 percent of my free time I'm studying. Even when I do work, it's at minimum wage and I need money to eat and buy textbooks."
Guduru, 21, is one of more than 100 Hunter College students and others who signed their name to a petition on Thursday, asking the mayor's office to implement half-priced subway and bus fares for low-income New Yorkers.
Representatives of the Riders Alliance, the New York Public Interest Research Group's Straphangers Campaign, and the Community Service Society, stood outside Hunter College and the East 68th Street-Lexington Avenue subway station collecting signatures for the cause.
In just one hour, 100 signatures were collected, according to Jaqi Cohen, the campaign coordinator for the Straphangers Campaign.
"This goes to show how passionate people are about this," Cohen said on Thursday. "For me, it's difficult to pay $116 a month, but I can do it. Whereas one out of every four low-income New Yorkers cannot pay $2.75 for a ride, and certainly not $116 up front."
Roughly 18 percent, or 40,000, City University of New York students live below the federal poverty line — or an annual income of $10,000 or less, according to a 2014 CUNY student experience survey.
By introducing half-priced MetroCards for those students, it would free them up to attend school rather than missing out if they can't afford the ride there, Cohen said.
"Low-income students forgo meals, their textbooks or even skip class entirely," she said. "We know that education is the primary way in which people can pull themselves out of poverty, but the ticket, the MetroCard, is getting in the way."
Guduru said his textbooks this semester cost him $550 and his parents helped him pay his nearly $4,000 tuition. He lives at home, but he feels bad asking his parents for help when he can't afford lunch.
"They barely have enough for themselves, so how can I ask for more money?" he said.
Other students took a stand and wrote out their reasons why there should be half-priced fair for low-income residents on Thursday: