Home MTA Economics Advocacy groups urge transit fare reductions for low-income New Yorkers

Advocacy groups urge transit fare reductions for low-income New Yorkers

by Benjamin Kabak

Whenever the MTA raises fares — a biennial occurrence for the foreseeable future these days — the price increases if often called a regressive tax. While the fare hikes are generally applied across the board, these increases have a larger negative impact on those from lower economic classes as it takes out a larger percentage of their incomes. If public transit is supposed to equalize the way we New Yorkers get around the city and access job centers, schools and everything else the city has to offer, constant fare hikes should, at a certain level, be a policy concern.

Lately, as the MTA has been forced to balance its budget on the backs of its riders (rather than, say, through some sort of congestion pricing or tolling plan), anti-poverty advocates have focused on transit fares as a point of concern. A few weeks ago, the Community Service Society of New York in conjunction with the Riders Alliance released a report [pdf] with some sobering numbers. Approximately 1 in 4 New Yorkers simply cannot afford to pay transit fares and thus are very limited in their potential job searches. Meanwhile, low-income New Yorkers who are more heavily reliant on transit than their richer neighbors spend a disproportionately higher percentage of their incomes on transit.

The study traces how certain transit benefits programs aren’t set up properly. While the MTA’s fare structure is set up to reward frequent travelers, only 18 percent of low-income riders are buying 30-day Metrocards, mostly because they cannot afford the initial outlay of $116.50. So they end up paying more over the course of the month — either through weekly purchases of the 7-day card (which adds up to a pro-rated $132.86 over 30 days) or through pay-per-ride cards. Additionally, tax breaks for transit usage often do not reach low-income riders. Here’s how the report puts it:

While the tax deduction for monthly MetroCard passes can save higher-income New York City families over $600 per year, the deduction is worth less to lower-income families who face lower tax rates. In fact, some families with lower earnings who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) would actually be worse off if they were to enroll in commuter benefits.

The pre-tax commuter parking benefit also yields higher tax savings to relatively more affluent suburban commuters who claim both the transit and parking allowance (e.g., those who drive to a commuter rail station). Most of the neediest commuters, however, do not own cars and benefit from the parking deduction; they are also more likely to live in New York City and rely on the MTA, allowing them to claim less than half of the $255 transit allowance for monthly MetroCard expenses. The pre-tax commuter benefits program offers considerable savings to many middle- and upper-income commuters. The cost to the state of New York of a tax subsidy such as this is the forgone state and city income tax revenues. Between the commuter benefit tax subsidy, half-price MetroCards for the disabled and elderly, and discounted monthly passes that are not affordable to low-income families, substantial public resources are being used to subsidize transit fares without reaching the majority of low-income families.

An estimated 800,000 riders would be eligible for a half-price fare for poor New Yorkers, saving those who opt to participate up to $700 per year.

The solution, the group argues, is a half-fare discount plan, such as those currently available for seniors or students, targeted at poor New Yorkers. The CSS argues that those eligible number around 800,000, and they would save approximately $700 a year in transit costs. The CSS estimates similar eligibility and participation rates as food stamps and believes the program would cost approximately $194 million in lost farebox revenue. It is worth noting as well that other cities, including Seattle, San Francisco and London, have already embraced some form of discount fares for low-income riders.

“Economic mobility and transit affordability go hand in hand. To get to work, pick up your kids from school, go to the doctor, to do almost everything you need to do in New York City to survive requires riding the subway or bus, “ David R. Jones, President and CEO of the Community Service Society, said in a statement. “Yet one-quarter of the city’s working poor often cannot afford bus and subway fare. The MTA should be available to everyone in our city, not just those with credit cards in their pocket who can afford a monthly pass, but to those with a few bucks in their pockets who are struggling to take care of their families and get ahead.”

The supporters of the plan haven’t pitched this is an idea the MTA should drive; it is, after all, something that will have to be made available to transit riders with a corresponding increase in MTA funding to offset the potential lost revenue. But so far, over two-thirds of New Yorkers surveyed have expressed some level of support for low-income fare subsidies. How the city and state could pay for this program is up for debate. The CSS argues for a share of some fare tolling/congestion pricing revenue, but everyone will have their hands in the pot. A surcharge on taxis, including Uber and Lyft rides, is mentioned in the report as are gas tax hikes, a so-called “millionaires” tax or direct budgetary contributions. It certainly warrants a robust public discussion. In our current climate, with lackluster support from transit from both Albany and City Hall, can this become an argument over economic fairness and livability in New York City in 2016? It should be.

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Peter L May 2, 2016 - 12:48 am

Why does this need to come out of transit’s budget? I mean other than tradition.

You want to give low income people a break, great, good idea. They cost as much to move as average income people so again, why does the transit co have to pay? And yes, I feel the same way about age-based discounts. Transit co’s should be service providers not social service agencies.

Larry Littlefield May 2, 2016 - 6:38 am

That’s fine…if the subway and commuter railroads were made to cover its costs on an auto-equilvalent basis otherwise, as I suggested here.


Which would force the political/union class to confront the serfs with the cost of services it always wants to increase. There is a difference between affordable transportation and subsidized transportation, and the two should not be confused at the highest state and local tax burden in the U.S.

The state has already acted to increase transit affordability to low income workers…by increasing the minimum wage. Note I suggested back when I wrote that post that a higher minimum wage in Manhattan and the suburbs should be included as part of having the subway cover its costs on an auto equivalent basis.

Keeping the distinction between affordable and subsidized in mind, and the fact that the government always have to do everything, the CSS ought to consider how many poor people actually get around. The bicycle. How about working to make affordable bicycles, helmets and lights easier to get?

At the food pantry where I volunteer once a month, the family transportation plan was explained to me this way. They have one monthly Metrocard. The husband told me he usually lets the wife use it, while he bicycles to work, but sometimes she rides and he takes the subway. For those rare collective trips out of the neighborhood, it’s only a couple of additional swipes on a pay per ride. That’s a pretty good deal all things considered.

Larry Littlefield May 2, 2016 - 6:39 am

Typo. The government does not always have to do everything. The CSS could work to make more bicycles available itself.

VLM May 2, 2016 - 8:38 am

I’m very skeptical that biking if some solution to NYC mobility woes. It’s largely a scale issue, but if you want to take about bike access, fine. That means coming to grips with the reality that DOT’s half-assed bike lane expansion efforts are overwhelmingly located in white areas of the city. Where are East New York, Mott Haven or Hollis bike lanes?

Larry Littlefield May 2, 2016 - 8:48 am

“That means coming to grips with the reality that DOT’s half-assed bike lane expansion efforts are overwhelmingly located in white areas of the city.”

I’m not sure if you follow bike lane issues on Streetsblog. But one of the thing the city has run into is hostility from the sort of people who end up on community boards in areas like these.

They are either the better off who drive everywhere, and think that is their way to step up into the middle class some whites would keep them out of, and don’t want bike lanes taking “their” parking. Or the see bike lanes as “gentrification” infrastructure for the better off.

Like many things its generational, and not reflective of the majority of people in these areas. It’s a consequence of a lack of turnover on the boards. As a result, however, you end up with a vocal minority that is hostile to bike lanes and bike parking and bus rapid transit in some of these places.

Larry Littlefield May 2, 2016 - 9:58 am

BTW, you are aware I bike 9 miles to work each way 3-4 days per week as a near 55-year-old fat guy, right?

Many of the low income workers that travel by work are Latinos. They also seem to do a lot of the manual work. And they now have a higher life expectancy than whites in the U.S.


Bolwerk May 3, 2016 - 9:33 am

The thing about life expectancy looks rather unexplained, or maybe over-explained. They cite tight-knit families. I’ve seen mental health mentioned. But maybe even rather small, arcane things like body mass and inclination to play with firearms have a cumulative effect on lower-to-middle-class whites’ live expectancy.

Christopher May 2, 2016 - 11:28 am

East New York has been a leader on bike lanes. Their city councilmember is a big bike advocate. Biking however is going to be primarily about last mile access TO transit, not long distances. So you still run into an issue of transit affordability.

Larry Littlefield May 2, 2016 - 12:36 pm

Depends on where the jobs are.

For commutation to Manhattan yes, its a last mile issue, and short of subway expansions the city could benefit low income communities by adding bicycle parking garages at terminals.

But to me, the transit portion of the trip is a higher minimum wage issue for Manhattan. The minimum wage should be higher there and in exclusive suburban communities where poor people can’t afford to live, and need to cover the cost of commuting.

Meanwhile, the number of jobs in the outer boroughs is soaring. And most of Brooklyn and SE Queens (including the airport) is bikeable from East New York.

And speaking of East New York, that third track on the LIRR is a key issue for access to jobs in Nassau and Suffolk. On MetroNorth, discounted reverse commute tickets led to a boom in reversed commuting to Westchester and Connecticut. But on Long Island they don’t want their low wage service workers to live there, commute by automobile and add to congestion, OR take transit.

SEAN May 2, 2016 - 4:01 pm

But on Long Island they don’t want their low wage service workers to live there, commute by automobile and add to congestion, OR take transit.

If that be the case, then where are the workers going to come from?

My friend Ashley commutes from The Bronx to Garden City 6-days a week & takes two subways & a bus each way. I asked her why don’t you take the LIRR to & from Minneola? She said I cant afford it & I left it right there.

AG May 2, 2016 - 8:12 pm

True… There are people who make those types of commutes. That’s why Triboro RX is so important. Someone like her would have her commute time cut – from The BX to Garden City by being able to go directly to Queens rather than through Manhattan first..

Wawaweewa May 2, 2016 - 6:57 am

What about those that aren’t low income nor upper middle? As always the middle gets screwed in NYC?

How about they advocate for a more efficient MTA to keep Costa under control? Novel idea?

Bolwerk May 3, 2016 - 10:06 am

They have some of the cheapest comprehensive local transportation in the country. If they opt to use it, they don’t pay taxes on the income that pays their transit fares.

Somebody May 2, 2016 - 7:21 am

It doesn’t make sense to further subsidize low-income riders. All transit riders are ALREADY subsidized on the back of tax payers and furthering subsidies only leads to greater inefficiency in the economy. If people cannot afford to use transit to get to and from work then they either need to find a job somewhere else or they need to demand higher wages. These sort of subsidies reduce wages and benefit business owners in the city who can access below market rate labor based on the subsidies. NYC is one of the most expensive places to live in the country and quite frankly not everyone can afford it nor should we expect them to be able to afford it. There are plenty of other places in this country where poor people’s money can stretch much further than around here.

MDC May 3, 2016 - 2:40 pm

Does your rhetoric apply equally to highway subsidies? Or to commuter benefits for middle-class workers?

John-2 May 2, 2016 - 8:15 am

New York’s flat fare system, compared to newer systems like Washington, does already offer lower income workers at the outer sections of lines a discount, since you can ride from Far Rockaway or Wakefield into Manhattan for the same price you can ride between Times Square and Grand Central.

Obviously, the closer in to the Midtown/Downtown areas that you live, the less of a break you likely get on your rides, if those main business/commercial/entertainment areas are your destination point. But it would be far worse for more people if the fare costs were not only based on distance, but were adjusted upwards during rush hours, as lower income riders on WMATA have to deal with if they can’t afford the monthly SmarTrip cards.

AG May 2, 2016 - 8:14 pm

Exactly… NYC’s “fare” to the poor is more “fair” than other places. It might take you longer for a longer journey – but at least it is one fare.

Rob May 2, 2016 - 8:33 am

“public transit is supposed to equalize the way we New Yorkers get around the city and access job centers, schools and everything else” – it is? who said? since when? was that August Belmont’s plan?

they can’t afford the fare, but somehow they can afford cell phones?

most elderly aren’t as poor as in the past; ok with me to make them pay regular fares.

Larry Littlefield May 2, 2016 - 8:42 am

“Most elderly aren’t as poor as in the past; ok with me to make them pay regular fares.”


And most non-elderly are poorer. And just wait to see what happens when those poorer non-elderly become elderly themselves.

SEAN May 2, 2016 - 4:06 pm

The cell phone argument is a red herring since there are federal programs to obtain one.

MDC May 3, 2016 - 2:41 pm

For the working poor, the cell phone is their only phone, and their only internet access.

MDC May 3, 2016 - 2:42 pm

It’s wack that there are still people tsking about poor folks with cell phones, as if they’re some sort of luxury in 2016.

VLM May 2, 2016 - 8:36 am

It is abundantly clear that most, if not all, commenters here are a bunch of well-off white guys. Check your privilege a bit, and think about how you sound and what role transit plays in our increasingly stratified society.

Larry Littlefield May 2, 2016 - 8:43 am

Transit and cities reduce stratification. Travel by auto and suburbanization increase it.

The way to reduce stratification is to increase the minimum wage in NYC, which is happening (could happen faster).

Eric May 3, 2016 - 4:11 am

There is no right to say something stupid and not be called out on it because the people calling you out have “privilege”.

Bolwerk May 3, 2016 - 10:00 am

I disagree with discounted fares for various reasons, but I don’t see what’s “stupid” about this proposal, at least insofar as it might really be better than doing absolutely nothing. Maybe. Not sure. :-\

I happen to think riders who get reduced or eliminated fares should have those reductions paid for by someone other than the transit authority. The TA’s job should be to run the trains and buses, and set fares according to its needs.

Michael Dawkins May 2, 2016 - 9:29 am

I’ve been reading this blog for awhile and this is the first time ‘m commenting. I’m not surprised to see all the comments that basically say “if they can’t afford to ride the train, that’s not our problem” or “they should bike”. While I agree the MTA is not a social services agency , the reality is that a lot of people need help, the fare has gone up substantially over the past couple of years. A lot of people (including myself) have to budget their income and expenses to the last dollar. Before you comment, please put yourself in the shoes of someone who needs help whether that be a single mother, a struggling student, an elderly person or any one the millions of less fortunate people in this city. Remember anything could happen in this life, you can have it today and lose it tomorrow, so be grateful for what you have and don’t look down on those less fortunate.

Larry Littlefield May 2, 2016 - 9:53 am

Frankly, I find that characterization a little unfair. I don’t look down on those less fortunate at all. The difference is I can about them 10 years from now too, not just today.

The same arguments were made by “save the fare” advocates in the 1950s and 1960s. How well off were the poor when the fare subsequently soared as the transit system collapsed in the 1970s?

And how much to today’s transit riders benefit from the massive fare cuts of the late 1990s, fare cuts that contributed to rising fares today. Is the CSS prepared to say that the current squeeze is worth it because the poor were helped in the past?

There was some Michael Dawkins that was happy in the past about the benefits that today’s Michael Dawkins is complaining about the cost of in the present. Workers are also paying for the past. Heck, many low, moderate, middle and even upper income people are paying now for debts they ran up in their own lives in the past.

So saying the MTA should reduce its income and, what, borrow even more? In comparison with the future, and in particular in comparison with the future poor, EVERYONE seems to feel needy.

Somebody May 2, 2016 - 1:10 pm

If this were in West Virginia or somewhere like that it might make sense to say they have no choice in the matter, but this is NYC we’re talking about here. Even most middle class people cannot afford to live in this city due to the high prices. NYC offers more to its residents than most any place in the US and consequently people who live here end up paying more than almost anyone else as well. If people cannot afford to live in NYC that’s not some tragedy, there is still the other 95% of the US with a lower cost of living than NYC where they can move to. If all these subsidies didn’t exist then companies couldn’t afford to get away with offering so little and would be forced to raise wages.

Tower18 May 2, 2016 - 2:08 pm

Setting aside the rest of your comment, how do you propose these NYC-based poor relocate themselves and their families to these cheaper areas? Will the government subsidize that? Many of our urban poor are too poor to stay, but also too poor to leave.

Somebody May 2, 2016 - 3:46 pm

A bus ticket isn’t exactly all that expensive and several cities actually DO offer them to poor people looking to get out although that carries its own questions.

But the bigger point is that you have millions of people in, “flyover” states wishing they could live in these ultra-expensive cities like NYC or San Francisco but can’t because it costs too much and it’s sort of a slap in those people’s faces when people who DO live in these cities act like they have some sort of fundamental right to everything these cities can provide. I get a little twitchy-eyed every time I hear someone in one of these cities complain that they need help with their $1600 rent when that sort of rent would be a luxury apartment where I grew up. My first apartment cost $425 and places like that still pay the same Federal minimum wage. Actually if you look at it NYC has the lowest REAL minimum wage of anywhere in the US (see below). The working poor could literally throw darts at a map and be guaranteed to find a better place to live than NYC when it comes to getting bang for their buck.


Tower18 May 2, 2016 - 3:49 pm

If “buy a bus ticket” is your only answer, I’m sorry, but you didn’t bother to think it through.

Somebody May 2, 2016 - 4:13 pm

Last I checked that’s the cheapest way to get from A to B if you don’t own a car.

Stephen May 3, 2016 - 12:37 pm

Yes, because a bus ticket is the *only* expense of moving. C’mon, man. The question Tower asked is a fair one, and deserves an honest answer. Where will the money for the deposit on a new apartment come from? Pay for moving their stuff, since buying all new stuff wouldn’t be an option? Expenses related to moving? How will the person find a job quickly enough to ensure that regular expenses are covered, especially when the person is likely already living paycheck-to-paycheck?

Bronx Resident May 3, 2016 - 4:22 pm

You’re way of thinking is exactly what’s wrong with this country. Let them be someone else’s problem.

Here’s a reality check for you, they will always be your problem.

Bolwerk May 4, 2016 - 4:53 pm

You are misunderstanding poverty. NYC is cheaper/easier to just survive in than most places in the USA. You don’t need a car, there’s at least menial work to be had, and somewhere you can probably find a small, crappy room to sleep in.

AG May 2, 2016 - 7:01 pm

Except that “single mothers, struggling students, elderly” all get more help in NYC than they do in the rest of the nation. While this report has some merit – it fails to note NYC was one of the best places in the country (top 10 among cities) for economic mobility in the nation. That is why international migrants continue to pour in here more than anywhere else. A lot of that has to do with mass transit. Much cheaper than car ownership.

Eric May 3, 2016 - 4:22 am

Rather than put myself in the shoes of someone who has trouble paying subway fare, I put myself in the shoes of someone who doesn’t have subway access at all because insistence on low fares made it impossible to extend the subway to their neighborhood.


Ferdinand Cesarano May 2, 2016 - 9:52 am

The disparate burden on poor people is the main reason that a sane society would subsidise its subways 100% out of taxes and would have no fare at all. However, our twisted society in which taxes are demonised will never get to that point.

Absent such a rational policy, it is hard to imagine how a means-tested low-fare system could be implemented without draining the system of revenue, and creating a black market.

P.S. — How does one subscribe to an individual post on a WordPress blog without responding?

Eric May 3, 2016 - 4:14 am

No significant transit system in the world has 100% free fares. Transit fares should be low but not zero.

Ed Varga May 2, 2016 - 10:02 am

If society decides to set aside additional resources to aid the poor they would be best helped through transit expansion rather than cheaper fares. Working poor need access to cheaper housing available in places not easily reached by transit right now. Housing is a much larger burden on low income workers than transit. Working long hours or multiple jobs, they need to cut their commute times through more frequent bus and subway service. And living further from job centers, they need more express options. Not only is it a better help to the poor, but to everyone without reference to income. If any fare is to be reduced, let it be LIRR and metro north fares within the city limits.

BKTrain May 2, 2016 - 10:31 am

If you lower fares for low-income people, it will generate more ridership. NYCT cannot accept more customers during the rush hour, especially on the lexington line. It is at capacity.

Any type of lowering the fare for low income NYers should be coupled with eliminating unlimited metrocards for everyone else. You might get a reduction in ridership but an increase in revenue that could even out low income people paying less.

Tower18 May 2, 2016 - 2:10 pm

Okay, but the goal is not revenue, the goal is ridership, at least from the point of view of the society. So policies specifically designed to suppress ridership ought to be DOA.

Eric May 3, 2016 - 4:18 am

There are plenty of below-capacity lines which could use more riders. If you’re worried about the Lexington, there are ways to manage the crowding which are used in other countries. For example, limit the number of people per hour who are allowed to enter a station. By world standards (Tokyo, Beijing, etc) the Lexington is only moderately crowded.

SEAN May 2, 2016 - 10:36 am

There doing this in Seattle – http://www.seattletransitblog.com. The same debate was raging there as well.

Erik May 2, 2016 - 11:09 am

Means-tested support for underfunded programs is generally a bad idea, especially for something as central as transit infrastructure. Fund it adequately and fund it universally, for all.

What winds up happening is that “cheap” fares become viewed as another welfare program “for them” that can be cut at any point in the future when budgets become tighter, which is inevitable. And it is a divide-and-conquer strategy by those against transit to get regular full-fare users to despise the subsidized users, when really they are all in the same boat. Slowly over time you make the full-fare users anti-transit in a relative sense, and the full-fare users are the ones with more political power.

It’s the same as Obamacare. We have a healthcare payer system that is broken and needs to be fixed, but instead we subsidize those at the bottom. This makes the entire system more shaky, and makes those who are unsubsidized pay more and makes them resentful.

Watch for it on social security in the future as well.

Means-testing is a very neoliberal, 3rd-way solution. It sounds like a solution, but really comes with more problems than it is worth, long-term. It avoids the bruising political battles that would be necessary to enact a real solution, and by the time its problems are manifest the politicians who enacted it has moved on. Finally, it adds complexity, since people will need to apply and prove their income, etc. This feeds both into the “merit-based” biases of the philosophy, since if you can’t figure out how to apply properly you must not be deserving of the support (and forget that you are taking the subway to your 3 jobs to support your kids and therefore don’t have time). It also will probably give a little boost to all the support businesses such as H&R Block that will wind up taking a share out of the subsidies to help “manage the complexity”.

Bad idea jeans.

eo May 2, 2016 - 11:10 am

I am not aware of any well functioning system anywhere in the world which is able to do income discrimination efficiently in the sense advocated here. If you do not charge everyone the same fare for the same trip you create a secondary market for for fake tickets, credentials or whatever else your discrimination system is based upon. Even the existing system of senior and student discounts is being gamed by people. I happen to personally observe way too many “seniors” making six figure or better salaries using half fares to commute. Most of them seem hardly in their fifties. I am sorry, but it is a total BS that many of these people are actually seniors who qualify for the discounts. Enforcement is lax, people have figured it out and abuse the system.

Furthermore it is frankly stupid to turn every public agency and service into a wellfare bureaucracy duplicating inside each agency, including whatever divisions would be created inside the MTA to oversee any effort along these lines. Let the MTA run trains, the housing agencies build housing, the public universities to teach and so on. The duplication of paperwork and loopholes through which the people need to jump at each agency is enormous and represents a clear deadweight to society. Neither the wellfare recipients like it(who likes to be begging multiple times just to make ends meet? They would all prefer to do it once and be done rather than repeat the process once for food stamps, once for housing and now once for transit), nor the taxpayers. Get one agency that administers it all and leave the others to focus on their main missions. In the private world conglomerates which tried to do it all at the same time have pretty much gone the way of the dinosaurs. In the public world though bureaucracies never die and get only more complicated. So over time they accomplish less and less while consuming more and more resources.

As others have already said, the proper way to equalize is through higher minimum wage, earned income credits or universal basic income.

I am not against helping the less fortunate. I just do not think giving them reduced fares will work as intended. And as a previous commenter pointed out: I have a 6-year $50 phone and pay full commuter fares, why are people who carry $600 phones and tablets to commute on reduced fares? I have made my choice that my job is more important than a fancy phone. If certain people think that having the fanciest newest gadgets is more important than their jobs, that is ok with me, but then they should not get to pay less than I do for my trip.

Larry Littlefield May 2, 2016 - 11:59 am

It was a long time ago, but I once actually read all the rules for food stamps. It was as complicated as the tax code, but in reverse, as you would expect for a benefit that varied with income and wealth. Hard enough for someone with a graduate degree to understand, let alone a poor person or non-native English speaker.

Adding on means tested benefits also increases the poverty trap — limiting the marginal gain on additional work income. My daughter, who is working in a service to the poor non-profit environment, actually experienced it in her first year doing her own taxes. She supplemented her stipend by doing some babysitting in a better part of town, and earned just enough to no longer be eligible to receive the EITC. Between that, transport cost, and FICA, she figures her net pay was just 20 percent of the gross.

SEAN May 2, 2016 - 8:09 pm

It also creates a situation in witch the slightest wrong move if detected causes benefits to be cut or even canceled. I had to know this on the medicade side of this issue for post graduate courses I was taking some years ago. The same is true for SSI & most other needs baste programs.

Peter L May 2, 2016 - 12:37 pm

If you do not charge everyone the same fare for the same trip you create a secondary market for for fake tickets, credentials or whatever else your discrimination system is based upon.

Every city that has free or discounted street parking for any vehicle with a disabled placard (or, more rarely, a plate) has a problem with people faking some sort of disability to get a placard. Disabled != poor. You want to help the disabled poor, great! Just don’t do it by allowing free parking.

Same with transit, IMHO. *Everyone* should pay the same fare (which, yes, is not the actual cost of the service in many cases). You want to help the poor or the elderly or some other group afford the fare? Great! Just don’t put that on the transit system.

SEAN May 2, 2016 - 3:48 pm

Lets get a few things straight – what is being proposed here & I noted above in Seattle is not the same as the half fare discount offered to seniors & the disabled. The half fare as we traditionally know it is federally mandated with some exceptions. One of these is no discounted fares on inbound AM-rush periods on LIRR & MNR trains & on express busses.

Interestingly PATH developed a senior fare when they started smartlink, but the disabled must pay full fare at all times. In addition, Airtrain has no discount fares beyond the special metrocard ment for frequent users including JFK employees.

Ed May 2, 2016 - 11:12 am

Distribute monthly metro cards to businesses in the city on a per capita basis for the employees they have in the city.

They can give them to their employees to use to come to work. Or they can sell them. Even if they sell them and make their employees get to work by car or bike (or sell them to their employees), presumably they would have to charge less than the machine vended cost of the cards, so someone is getting a cheaper card. And either way, businesses operating in the city get a subsidy.

Michael K May 2, 2016 - 1:16 pm

This discussion about transportation agencies becoming welfare transportation is dangerous. Our current funding mechanism is setup up to provide an operation and capital subsidy to a private enterprise that cannot seem to make enough money, yet is too important to the state to allow to fail. Provisions from earlier contracts that the city demanded in exchange for the right to operate include a flat fare.

Fast forward to 2016 , the transit agency is basically another essential government service in the eyes of pubic, and they can’t see the issue with simply using transit as a welfare tool, it’s basically taking money from one hand to another. Hence, proposals such as this.

Under the current system, subsidized metrocards should be fined and distributed by social service agencies alongside other assistance programs.

SEAN May 2, 2016 - 8:29 pm

This discussion about transportation agencies becoming welfare transportation is dangerous.

So true.

in one of TriMet ‘s planning documents from a few years ago, it noted this very problem back in the 60’s & 70’s. It stated that “transit was nothing more than an extention of the welfare system.” Thanks to greater focus on regional cooperation, greater Portland was able to break free from that trap – although a lot more needs to be done& the political will needs to be rekindled there as anti transit forces have gained strength. MAX has been called by some “little toy trains.”

Rich May 2, 2016 - 3:30 pm

One straight forward way of aiding people who can’t afford the monthly metro card up-front is to introduce a price cap. Make it one you have to sign up for. EG: Approximately, if you have signed up and buy 3x consecutive weekly passes, then the 4th weekly – loaded on the same metrocard – is cheaper and/or you get a bonus of some extra days (so that the cost never exceeds what you would pay if you had bought the monthly upfront).

EG: You are effectively allowing somebody to buy a monthly ticket with the cost spread out over the month.

Admittedly much easier if you had online access to Metrocard and could top up/pay by Direct Debit. And, obviously, much easier on Oyster/Octopus/other smart card technology which NYC won’t have for some time.


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