New Half-Price MetroCards Offer Roadmap to Equality

Posted on June 13, 2018 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Mobility Equals Opportunity

Considered the great equalizer connecting New Yorkers to jobs, education and upward mobility, our roaring subway system turned a historic corner this week by agreeing to offer half-priced MetroCards to low-income New Yorkers.

High transit costs had become a significant barrier to getting ahead for working poor New Yorkers, according to a groundbreaking report and survey by the Community Service Society. More than a quarter of low-income New Yorkers said they often couldn’t afford subway or bus fare.  Worse still, many said unaffordable fares prevented them from accessing medical care or even taking  jobs.

“I can barely afford to make ends meet to support my 14 year old son,” says Leslie Wells, a 44-year old substitute teacher from Central Harlem.  “The rising cost of a MetroCard is a big chunk of my salary. When I don’t have the money for the fare, I just don’t go to

Under the new “Fair Fares” agreement between Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson the city will spend $106 million from its 2019 fiscal budget to provide half-priced transit fares for low-income New York City residents.  These are people with annual incomes at or below the poverty level, about $25,000 for a family of four. Approximately 800,000 working-age New Yorkers would be eligible for the program. Each could save approximately to $726 dollars on MetroCards next year.

This small discount, says the coalition of legal, labor and human service organizations that have supported it, could have a big ripple effect across the nation.  New York City, with its outsized influence, could offer a roadmap for a more equitable urban America.  Moreover, in this city where mobility equals opportunity, subway fares will no longer stand between low-income New Yorkers and higher paying jobs.

“The affordability and upkeep of public transit is a critical, yet often under addressed public policy area,” says Catholic Charities NY Executive Director Monsignor Kevin Sullivan.  “Congratulations to those who led the way and came together to get this done.”  

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