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Half-price MetroCard program launches, but only to 30K New Yorkers

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The Fair Fares program is planning to expand to another 130,000 New Yorkers in April


A few days after being criticized for the delay of the roll-out of the Fair Fares program, Mayor Bill de Blasio, joined by City Council speaker Corey Johnson and several local elected officials, announced the launch of the discount MetroCard program that will benefit low-income New Yorkers.

On Wednesday, January 2—a day after the Fair Fares program was slated to begin—someone posed a question to the MTA’s NYCT Subway twitter account, inquiring about how to go about obtaining applications for the program. This led to Mayor de Blasio’s spokesperson revealing that the program hadn’t started yet, though it was “coming soon.” However, during the Friday announcement, the mayor expressed that he promised the program would begin in the beginning of January, and he is satisfied with the launch date, given that it’s only three days late.

“What we’re doing here today is going to change the lives of thousands of New Yorkers,” said Mayor de Blasio. “There has never been a time that low-income New Yorkers got MetroCard discounts like this. It means the doors of opportunity will open up.” The program will offer discounts on 7-day and 30-day MetroCard passes (regular prices are $32 and $121, respectively), but single-ride discounts won’t be available.

At the announcement for the program launch, the mayor was criticized for the limited amount of New Yorkers that will be eligible to join the initial roll-out of Fair Fares: Of the 800,000 New Yorkers that are estimated to be living below the federal poverty level line of $25,000 a year for a family of four, only 30,000 who are employed and already receiving cash assistance from the city will be eligible for the discount MetroCards. In April, the city plans on expanding the program to another 130,000 residents receiving federal food stamps.

Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks said that the city is still in the process of creating a system where applicants can apply online for the discounts cards. The system in not expected to roll out until April and the 30,000 applicants who will receive benefits now are those that have already been deemed eligible for the program.

“This was a long process, but I will say that all of our hearts have been in the right place since day one and the mayor’s ultimate goal was always about getting it right,” said City Council speaker Corey Johnson.