The city’s program to bring half-priced MetroCards to low-income New Yorkers is due to expand in a big way. Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council speaker Corey Johnson announced this week that by the fall, the Fair Fares program will be open to more city residents—those who live in NYCHA housing, CUNY students, and veterans living in poverty—and that by next January, an enrollment plan will be in place for all New Yorkers living below the poverty line.
“We’re doing all we can to help low-income riders get around in a city that can be very difficult to afford,” de Blasio said in a statement. “We think this program will go a long way toward making our city even fairer and we’re excited to expand this unprecedented initiative to more New Yorkers.”
Currently, there is no application process for Fair Fares, which offers discounted unlimited MetroCards—$16.50 for a weekly pass, and $60.50 for a monthly pass—to New Yorkers who are already receiving benefits, such as SNAP, through the city. The de Blasio administration was criticized for the rollout when the program launched in January, because it would only apply to around 30,000 people. (The city says it has reached 45,000 eligible New Yorkers since the program began.)
According to the latest data from the city, close to 20 percent of New Yorkers live at or below the poverty line.
The city will also ramp up its efforts to make people aware of Fair Fares over the next few months, in particular those living in 25 zip codes where poverty is felt the hardest. There will be online advertising, and an online portal for those already receiving the benefit will launch in April.
Another element of the program that was criticized initially was the lack of a pay-per-ride option for riders who didn’t want an unlimited card. The city now says it will begin offering that sometime this month.