Four days late, de Blasio launches Fair Fares program with some caveats

Posted On Fri, January 4, 2019 By

Posted On Fri, January 4, 2019 By In Policy, Transportation

Image via Flickr cc

After facing sharp criticism this week from almost all New York media outlets for missing the January 1st start date of Fair Fares, Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson held a press conference this afternoon to officially launch the program. As of now, the joint initiative will provide half-priced MetroCards to approximately 30,000 low-income New Yorkers who are receiving cash assistance benefits from the Department of Social Services. In April, an estimated additional 130,000 New Yorkers receiving SNAP benefits will be able to apply. But as the Daily News’ City Hall bureau chief Jill Jorgensen mentioned on Twitter, limiting the program to these two groups means that no undocumented residents are eligible to apply.

As 6sqft explained earlier this week:

For over a year, de Blasio opposed the Fair Fares program, claiming the city could not afford it, suggesting the state fund the initiative since it oversees the MTA. But during his first year as speaker, Johnson pushed the mayor hard to include it in the city’s budget. The deal struck between the two officials included $106 million in city funding, which would pay for six months of the program beginning in January.

But on Tuesday, confused New Yorkers started Tweeting at the MTA, asking for details on how to apply for Fair Fares. Since the program is technically managed by the city, they advised people to call 311 for more information, but in response, de Blasio spokesperson Eric Phillips said, “this program hasn’t started yet – and the eligibility standards haven’t been released.” After promising to roll it out in “literally just a few days,” the Mayor did oblige today, saying in a press release: “New Yorkers shouldn’t have to choose between a ride on the subway or bus and their next meal. Our partnership with the Council for fair fares will make our city stronger and fairer for low-income New Yorkers whose lives depend on mass transportation.”

It was originally thought that the program would apply more generally to low-income New Yorkers living at or below the federal poverty level (a household income of $25,000 for a family of four). It was then narrowed down to just those receiving cash assistance or SNAP benefits from the Department of Social Services, but today’s announcement further limits the program with its two-phase rollout now and in April.

This morning, the Department of Social Services began contacting the 30,000 eligible New Yorkers who are receiving cash assistance benefits. Those who qualify for the program will be able to purchase half-priced unlimited weekly and monthly MetroCards at specified MTA vending machines, which can be used on all NYC subways or non-express buses.

Another criticism of the program has been its reversal on reduced fares for single trips, but today’s announcement came with news that the city is currently working with the MTA on a pay-per-ride option, which is expected to launch in April.

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