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Making Fair Fares More Fair for More New Yorkers: PCAC Releases Report Detailing Far-Reaching Effect of Increasing Fair Fares Eligibility Across NYC

Making Fair Fares More Fair for More New Yorkers: PCAC Releases Report Detailing Far-Reaching Effect of Increasing Fair Fares Eligibility Across NYC  

650,000 residents would be newly eligible for Fair Fares at 200% FPL, largely concentrated in working class neighborhoods in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens


New York- Significantly more than half a million more New Yorkers across the city would qualify for Fair Fares if eligibility were raised to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), from the current 120%, according to a new analysis by the Permanent Citizen’s Advisory Committee to the MTA (PCAC). The findings are detailed in a just-released report by PCAC staff, entitled Expanding Fair Fares to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level: Mapping Equitable Access to Transit for All, which graphically maps out how significant the impact of expansion would be for residents in environmental justice communities across the city, particularly outside of Manhattan.

Fair Fares has become an indispensable program for over 325,000 riders since its launch in 2019, but in its current form it fails to support nearly all working New Yorkers – including those making minimum wage. By expanding Fair Fares to 200% of the FPL, the City of New York has the opportunity to make over 650,000 more New Yorkers eligible for the program, including 250,000 regular commuters.  

“Fair Fares is an essential program that expands access to our city’s public transit system for working-class residents, and we must expand its eligibility to reach even more New Yorkers,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams. “The Council has consistently championed the expansion of Fair Fares to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level to expand opportunities for 650,000 additional riders. The latest report by PCAC shows that residents from outer-borough neighborhoods in the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn will disproportionately benefit from affordable public transit. With so many New Yorkers struggling to make ends meet amidst an affordability crisis, it remains critical that we work together to expand eligibility and ensure all eligible New Yorkers can take advantage of this lifeline.”

“While there is no doubt that Fair Fares has become an essential program to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers since its launch just five years ago, the fact remains that far too few residents who work in our city are able to participate in the program,” said Lisa Daglian, Executive Director, PCAC. “Our research clearly shows that New Yorkers living in working class neighborhoods around the city will greatly benefit from expanding Fair Fares, saving them hundreds of dollars annually. We thank Speaker Adrienne Adams for her steadfast support of the expansion of Fair Fares and implore Mayor Adams to answer our call for a more equitable, affordable and accessible transit system for New Yorkers. It’s time to make Fair Fares more fair for more people!”  

When Fair Fares Eligibility Increases to 200% FPL:  

  • Well over 650,000 more residents will become eligible for the program, including over 250,000 regular commuters who travel to or from, work or school on a daily basis.  
  • Every City Council district has at least one census tract in its district where the percentage of residents eligible for Fair Fares will increase by at least 10%.   
  • The Bronx will see the greatest per capita increase as an additional 16.2% of the population will become eligible for Fair Fares. Queens and Brooklyn are second and third at 13.2 and 13.1%, respectively.  
  • Brooklyn will see the greatest increase in residents who would become eligible for Fair Fares at nearly 218,000 people, followed by Queens at 197,000, the Bronx at 141,000, Manhattan at 101,000, and Staten Island at 27,000  
  • Residents in working-class neighborhoods, including Sunset Park, Brownsville, Flushing, Elmhurst/Jackson Heights, Morrisania, and Highbridge, would benefit most from expansion of the program.  
  • Beyond the Central Business District, there is a strong correlation between areas where fare evasion summonses are most prevalent and areas that will see the greatest increase in newly eligible Fair Fares riders.  
  • Nationally, New York’s Fair Fares program has the most restrictive income requirements, despite being the metro area with the highest cost of living and having the highest poverty rates of major cities with comparable programs.  
  • Expansion of the Fair Fares program to LIRR and Metro-North trains within New York City would increase access to a significant number of residents below 200% of poverty, especially in portions of the Bronx and Queens that do not have easy subway access. 70% of city LIRR and Metro-North stations are close to communities where over a quarter of residents would qualify for Fair Fares. 

Earlier today, New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, Council Members, transit advocates, and supporters gathered outside the City Hall subway station to call for increasing the eligibility of Fair Fares to New Yorkers living at 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (PFL). Fair Fares, which Speaker Adams has prioritized in her State of the City address and past city budgets, offers a 50% subsidy on public transit fares for residents with eligible income, regardless of immigration status. The Council and the Mayoral Administration baselined $75 million in funding for the program in the Fiscal Year 2023 budget, and the Council successfully negotiated a baselined increase of $20 million for an expansion of eligibility from 100 to 120 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) as part of the Fiscal Year 2024 budget. For Fiscal Year 2025, the Council and advocates are pushing to raise eligibility to 200% of the FPL.

“Public transportation is one of New York City’s greatest equalizers, allowing New Yorkers to access opportunity and to get to their jobs, school, medical appointments, and care for their families,” said Deputy Speaker Diana Ayala, Chair of the Committee on General Welfare. “Fair Fares can help change the lives of working people across the city, but at its current eligibility level, it still falls short of the needs of our residents. Expanding Fair Fares eligibility to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level would open up a world of possibility for 650,000 more New Yorkers, and the Council will continue to advocate for its inclusion in the final city budget. I thank Speaker Adams, my Council colleagues, and advocates who have championed this important investment for New Yorkers.”

“To reach working New Yorkers who need our support, Fair Fares eligibility must be expanded to 200 percent of the federal poverty level,” said Majority Whip Selvena N. Brooks-Powers, Chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “Affordable, accessible, and reliable public transportation is the lifeblood of our city, helping residents get to work, school, and to see their friends and loved ones. Expanding the impact of Fair Fares to even more New Yorkers will open doors of opportunity, especially in outer-borough neighborhoods and transit deserts that currently lack access. The Council supports expanding the program’s eligibility, and we look forward to working with all stakeholders to secure the necessary investments in the city budget.”

“Today 1 in 5 New Yorkers are struggling to afford the fare. And this Council led by Speaker Adams, is doubling down on our commitment to New Yorkers who most need the expansion of Fair Fares,” said Majority Leader Amanda Farias. “Affordable access to the City’s transit system means ensuring that all New Yorkers can pursue economic opportunity, commute to work, school, and staple institutions safely and sustainably, and maintain our reliable transit infrastructure. I am proud to stand with the Speaker on this issue and continue demanding we put people first.”

“When it takes an estimated salary of $70,000 just to cover basic necessities in New York City, it is more than reasonable to consider raising the eligibility of Fair Fares recipients to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level at $30,120,” said Senator Leroy Comrie. “The PCAC’s report is further evidence that the Fair Fares program is in need of common sense updates to its eligibility standards so that New Yorkers are able to afford transit – particularly in advance of congestion pricing. I implore Mayor Adams and the City Council to work together to get Fair Fares Expansion to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level and to the LIRR and Metro-North in this year’s city budget.”

“Far too many of our families are living paycheck to paycheck during this affordable housing crisis, and the cost of living continues to rise. Many of them are frontline workers, who show up for us every day. That’s why we must help alleviate their financial burden in whatever way we can,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. “By expanding the eligibility threshold for the critically important Fair Fares program, we can help lower transit costs for hard-working families, increase subway and bus ridership and ensure our mass transit system is accessible to all.”

“Since 2019, the Fair Fares program has been a significant game changer for many New Yorkers by making public transportation in our city more accessible and affordable,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson. “I was an avid supporter of this initiative in the City Council, and as Borough President, I am proud to join with my colleagues in government and transit advocates to support the expansion of this important program.”

“Since the first findings from our Unheard Third survey showed one in four low-income New Yorkers struggling with transit affordability, the Community Service Society of New York (CSS) has been advocating for making our mass transit system more affordable and accessible to working-class New Yorkers who rely on it the most,” said David R. Jones, President and CEO, Community Service Society of New York. “At its current income threshold (120 percent of poverty), the Fair Fares program is not reaching the hundreds of thousands of working-class New Yorkers struggling with transit affordability. In fact, a New York City resident working full-time, year-round at the minimum wage makes too much to qualify for Fair Fares. It’s time to unlock the potential of Fair Fares to be the transformative program we always envisioned. To do that, we must expand the program’s income threshold to 200 percent of poverty, so that more working-class New Yorkers can take advantage of it.”

“Fair Fares is a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers but too many riders barely making ends meet are shut out entirely,” said Danna Dennis, Senior Organizer, Riders Alliance. “Even with last year’s expansion, the program isn’t close to fulfilling its promise or reaching nearly enough struggling families. Riders thank our partners at the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA for this superb research and steadfast support. We urge Mayor Adams to get on board and increase eligibility to 200% of the poverty line in the City budget this summer.”

“Expanding eligibility of Fair Fairs to 200% of the federal poverty limit will ensure that the New Yorkers who rely on transit the most will have better access to affordable transportation,” said Kate Slevin, Executive Vice President, Regional Plan Association (RPA). “This was a key recommendation of the MTA’s Blue Ribbon Panel and something RPA has supported since the release of the 4th Regional Plan in 2017. We applaud the PCAC’s latest report and urge Mayor Adams to provide this desperately needed financial relief and greater access in the City’s budget.”

“We cannot drive our way out of the climate crisis, and if we’re going to create a more resilient, sustainable, and equitable city, we must prioritize mass transit and those who rely on it the most, and that is exactly what the Fair Fares program does,” said Alia Soomro, Deputy Director of NYC Policy, New York League of Conservation Voters. “With congestion pricing on the horizon, New York City is on the precipice of a public transportation renaissance, and we are proud to stand with Speaker Adams in calling for the expansion of Fair Fares so that all New Yorkers can benefit from more reliable and more robust subway and bus service.”

“All New Yorkers, regardless of income, deserve access to public transportation,” said Renae Reynolds, Executive Director, Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “Fair Fares provides a lifeline to hundreds of thousands of low-income New Yorkers, but hundreds of thousands more still don’t qualify for the program despite struggling to make ends meet. Expanding Fair Fares to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level is not just a necessity—it’s a commitment to equity and mobility for all New Yorkers. As we strive for a more inclusive city, ensuring that our transportation systems are accessible to those who need them most is crucial.”

“With congestion pricing set to launch this month, we should be making it easier and more affordable to get around. Expanding Fair Fares is an equitable way to ensure we can connect New Yorkers to jobs, school, appointments, and more,” said Elizabeth Adams, Deputy Executive Director for Public Affairs, Transportation Alternatives. “We applaud Speaker Adams and advocates in the City Council for rallying for the expansion of Fair Fares to 650,000 more New Yorkers and we hope to see it in the final city budget.”

“Reinvent Albany thanks Speaker Adams, the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, Community Service Society, and Riders Alliance for energetically championing Fair Fares,” said Rachael Fauss, Senior Policy Advisor, Reinvent Albany. “Expanding the pool of New Yorkers eligible for the benefit to 200% of the poverty level will open subway and bus doors to up to 650,000 more residents. Dollar to dollar, this is probably the best economic development investment the City of New York is making.”