After facing criticism for the delayed and limited roll-out of Fair Fares, Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Johnson have announced plans to expand the program. Starting this fall, eligible New Yorkers in NYCHA, enrolled students at CUNY, and military veterans below the poverty line will have access to the program, which provides half-priced MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers. By January 2020, open enrollment will expand to all New Yorkers at or below the federal poverty line (a household income of $25,750 for a family of four). The program has also been criticized for its reversal on reduced fares for single trips, but Monday’s announcement came with the good news that a pay-per-ride option will be available by mid-March.
“The steps being taken today demonstrate the shared commitment by the Mayor, the Speaker, the City Council, and advocates to fulfill the program’s vision of making the turnstile the gateway to economic opportunity for all New Yorkers who are struggling to get ahead,” said David R. Jones, President and CEO of CSS, the anti-poverty organization that first proposed half-priced fares.
The program was met with confusion and criticism when it launched four days late on January 4th, with a roll-out that was far more restricted than expected. It was originally thought that the program would apply to the 800,000 low-income New Yorkers living at or below the federal poverty level, but that was narrowed down to just 30,000 residents receiving cash assistance from the Department of Social Services. In April, a second phase of the plan was to include the 130,000 New Yorkers who receive food stamps.
“I understand that reporters or anybody else might say, ‘Why can’t things be more instantaneous?’ But you would also say, if something went wrong, ‘Why did something go wrong?'” Mayor de Blasio said during a news conference. “We’re trying to use the first 30,000 to make sure the whole system will work.”
The city will be launching a three-month advertising campaign to raise awareness of the “Fair Fares” program in the top 25 New York City zip codes where there are large numbers of eligible individuals for the program.