A program to provide discounted MetroCards to low-income New Yorkers missed its target start date of Jan. 1, and the city has not provided any concrete details on its rollout, amNY reported Wednesday. The Fair Fares pilot program, which was agreed upon in June by Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, would provide half-price MetroCards for those who fall below the federal poverty line. One day after the original launch date passed, the mayor on Wednesday told reporters that more information on how to apply for the program will be provided “in literally just a few days.”
New Yorkers who were wondering about how to apply for the program tweeted at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Twitter account, @NYCTSubway, seeking more information. But with no details to provide (technically the program is being managed by the city, not the agency), the MTA advised people to call 311, “which may be able to provide you with more information on the program.” In response, Eric Phillips, a spokesperson for de Blasio, tweeted:
This program hasn’t started yet – and the eligibility standards haven’t been released. When we release those details, which will be very soon, places like 311 will have the information. But we aren’t there yet. Stay tuned! https://t.co/MuScrKwC4G
— Eric Phillips (@EricFPhillips) January 2, 2019
There appears to be no communication between the agency and the de Blasio administration about the program. Sources at the MTA told the New York Post that the city has not reached out to them about administering the program.
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.
“You’re going to hear in a few days exactly how the first wave of people can apply and we think we’ll be able to get people signed up very quickly,” de Blasio said at a press conference Wednesday.
The mayor added: “This absolutely consistent with the plan that we came to with the Council. And look, this has never been done before. This is a brand new way of addressing income inequality, a brand new way of empowering low-income New Yorkers. It’s about to begin in a matter of days and I think it’s going to make a huge difference.”
Once it launches, the program is expected to benefit nearly 800,000 New Yorkers who fall below the poverty line, or a household income of roughly $25,000 for a family of four. But the city is also facing criticism for reportedly only allowing those qualified for the discounted fares to buy half-off 7-day or 30-day passes, instead of reduced single trip rides. However, de Blasio said that issue “is still being worked on” and that the program will be rolled out in waves.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer on Thursday hosted a news conference to demand “the city get on track its plan” to distribute the discounted MetroCards. Stringer, who sent a letter to the Human Resources Administration with concerns about the lack of detail coming from the de Blasio administration, called the program’s roll out a “failure.”
“Now that we are past the deadline when half priced MetroCards were supposed to be available, we still have no idea what the administration’s timetable and roll-out plan will be for this crucial investment,” Stringer said.
“If the City decides to undercut the promise of Fair Fares by limiting the discount to 7-day and 30-day passes, it will very likely lock out New Yorkers who can’t afford the upfront cost. This is unacceptable for our city, and we demand answers on behalf of all bus and subway riders.”
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