Over the last few months, I’ve repeatedly touched upon issues of cost in relation to the MTA’s decision to cut student MetroCards. As I explained again on Monday, it should cost between $687-$800 a year for one student’s school year travel without the option of free transit.
But what of the costs to the state to fund student travel? Tom Namako of The Post tackled this subject this week, and his findings are both staggering and unsurprising. The state won’t pony up more than $25 million — down for $45 million, up from $6 million — a year for student MetroCards, but it is content to spend over $1 billion busing students to school via the fleet of yellow buses. Namako also notes that the MetroCard program “help[s] move four times as many students at one-fifth of the cost of school buses.”
The agency said it spends about $214 million to transport 585,000 students for free every year, with the city and state putting in only $45 million and $25 million respectively. Meanwhile, the Education Department’s $1 billion school-bus program moves only about 140,000 students, city statistics show.
That’s $786 million more for 445,000 fewer students. But city officials insist that money can’t be taken from one group and given to the other. “Busing requirements are set by state law. The city does not have the option of using busing money to fund MetroCards,” said one mayoral aide.
The DOE determines who is eligible for both yellow bus and free MTA services.
This is a staggering failure of politics and common sense from the city and state of New York City. Both of the entities responsible for getting students to school have been handed a literal golden transportation ticket, and they are both on the verge of letting the plan lapse. Meanwhile, these governments are content to flush money down the drain via a costly and inefficient yellow school busing system.
The MTA remains the nation’s only transit agency tasked with footing the bill for student transport, and there is simply no justification for it. It’s time for the state and city to swallow their anger and do the right thing. If the students are left stranded, it will be the fault of City Hall and Albany and not the MTA.