Mayor Bill de Blasio's nearly $85 billion dollar budget proposal released Tuesday doesn't include one thing transit advocates have been clamoring for: a half-priced MetroCard for low income New Yorkers. More than half of the city council has indicated it wants the city to provide a half-priced MetroCard.
"We believe particularity because the mayor ran on a platform of trying to deal with income inequality that this would be a very cost effective way to help the working poor," said David Jones, president of the Community Service Society and a deBlasio-appointed member of the MTA board.
Jones' group estimates that it would cost the city $212 million dollars to offer half-priced MetroCards to 800,000 New Yorkers living at or below the federal poverty level. He said low income New Yorkers would save about $700 a year.
Speaking Tuesday, de Blasio said it was a "noble goal," but that the state should pay. "We're not in a position to fund it," he said.
The MTA, which is controlled by the state, said it already subsidizes services for the poor. “The MTA always tries to keep fares as low as possible and still provide safe, reliable service," said MTA spokeswoman Beth DeFalco. "The MTA already makes a substantial commitment to low-income City riders, including $625M annually the MTA spends to subsidize services primarily available for NYC-only residents (such as elderly, paratransit and schoolchildren)."
The MTA spends $15.4 billion annually on operating costs with $8 billion coming from fares and tolls.
"We remain hopeful that the mayor will see the value this offers to New Yorkers already struggling to pay the current fare," said city councilman and chairman of the Transportation Committee, Ydanis Rodriguez. "I will continue working with my colleagues and the administration to include this investment in transit equity before the budget is passed in June."
The Mayor's budget proposal includes an additional $317 million for his Vision Zero program, aimed at eliminating traffic fatalities by 2024.