For thousands of New Yorkers, getting a discounted MetroCard is about to get much easier: The city has officially expanded and launched open enrollment for its Fair Fares program, which provides half-priced MetroCards for anyone who qualifies.
The program first rolled out a year ago, but was initially only available to around 30,000 New Yorkers whose incomes were at or below the federal poverty line, and were already receiving cash assistance or SNAP benefits from the city. But the program has been gradually expanding since then: Officials rolled out the pay-per-ride option in the spring, and late last year, it opened up to eligible NYCHA residents, CUNY students, and veterans at or below 100 percent of poverty line.
“New York really happens on the subway or on the bus,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a long-time advocate for the program, said at a press conference on Monday. “If you can’t get on the subway or the bus, it’s hard to be a full New Yorker, which is why it is so important that we get this program done right.”
Over the past year, more than 100,000 people have enrolled in the program, but now, around 800,000 New Yorkers could qualify, Johnson said. Here’s what you need to know—including how to find out if you’re eligible, and how to apply.
What is the Fair Fares program?
The Fair Fares program, a collaboration between the City Council and the Mayor’s Office, provides a 50 percent discount on MetroCards—both pay-per-ride, and weekly and monthly unlimited—to low-income New Yorkers. Right now, if you are eligible, the single ride would go from $2.75 to about $1.38, the weekly unlimited one from $33 to $16.50, and the monthly unlimited from $127 to $63.50.
Who qualifies for the program?
Here’s who is eligible: New Yorkers (regardless of immigration status) between the ages of 18 and 64 who don’t currently receive a discounted MetroCard through another city program, who are not receiving a full carfare from a city agency, and whose household income is at or below specific limits, as outlined below:
If you fall within the income brackets specified above, you’ll be asked to apply on the HRA website. Once you’re there, you may be asked upload specific documentation to prove your identity, age, and income. Once the application has been submitted and all documents uploaded, the city will process it within 30 days. You can log in to the HRA website to check the status of your application.
How does it work?
Once accepted, participants in the program will receive a special Fair Fares MetroCard in the mail with no value or time in it. Once it’s filled with a value and swiped at the turnstile, it will automatically charge half of a normal single-ride subway fare. For instance, if a person adds $10, when swiping the card at the turnstile or the bus fare box, they will be charged half the price of a single ride, around $1.38.
If participants choose to add time to the card, as with a weekly or monthly unlimited pass, they will be asked to pay half of what those typically cost (e.g. $16.50 for the weekly and $63.50 for the monthly.)
To add value or time to a card, participants can use cash, a debit or credit card, or an EBT card.
For more details, check out this very thorough guide from the city.