Assembly Member Harvey Epstein and New York Public School Students Call on MTA to Provide Full-Fare 3-Trip MetroCards for Students

Assembly Member Epstein and public-school students rally in support of the MTA’s proposal to eliminate half-fare student MetroCards and provide full-fare cards to students

NEW YORK, NY -- Ahead of the MTA’s NYCT & MTA Bus Committee meeting on Monday, where a proposal for the provision of 3-trip full-fare MetroCards to more students will be considered, Assemblymember Epstein joined with high schoolers and transit advocates from across the city to encourage the MTA to adopt the proposal in time for the upcoming school year.

For the Spring semester of 2018, the MTA issued 200,500 half-fare MetroCards to the DOE for distribution to students. In order for students to use these limited, bus-only MetroCards to get to school or school-related activities, they must pay the remainder of the fare—currently $1.35—in exact change when boarding the bus. As a result, students with these MetroCards are forced to carry $13.50 in coins per week just to get to school and then return home.

The burden makes the MetroCards unusable for a majority of students who receive them. New York City’s Department of Education data show that the existing system does not serve students well: 66 percent of half-fare MetroCards shipped to schools and distributed to students are never used. Of the half-fare cards that are used, they are used on only 8 percent of school days.

“This is a social justice and equity issue for at least 130,000 students who are forced to pay to go to public school,” said Assembly Member Epstein.“No school-age child who travels to school and then home can realistically be expected to carry the remaining fare––a total of $13.50 in change per week––that makes the half-fare cards useable. Students who are only eligible for half-fare cards are faced with economic hardships and dangerous situations where they may be forced to walk to school in the early hours of the morning or late at night because they do not have the remainder of the fare they need to use the MetroCard on the bus, or the full fare needed for the Subway. I commend the MTA for working towards a solution to provide more equity in transportation for New York’s students and I urge them to implement the proposal to provide full-fare cards to these students in time for the 2019-20 school year.”

On Friday, the MTA released a staff summary of the changes they propose to provide full-fare, 3-trip MetroCards to students currently receiving half-fare cards. The summary will be an agenda item for consideration at Monday’s NYCT & MTA Bus Committee meeting. With Board approval, the changes could take effect in time for the start of the 2019-20 school year, providing hundreds of thousands of students with free transportation to school.

“The current student MetroCard policy creates and perpetuates systems of racial injustice, economic injustice, and establishes the narrative that your future is determined by the zipcode you grow up in. Transportation justice is a social justice issue that demands attention,”said Emma Rehac, Lead Organizer, Campaign for Student Transportation Justice.

“Having a half fare card I’m forced to pay to get to school every day, and home every day, and most of the time I have extracurricular activities that require me to take the train and I’m not able to do that because of the card’s limits,”said Francesca G. of Art and Design HS, 11th Grade. “I have a single mom who struggles to keep up with transportation fare and it’s not fair that we have to pay when a majority of kids don’t. I am one block within the full fare range and having to take the bus instead of the train is not convenient.”

“As a half-fare student, I am forced to struggle to make money. It was difficult to get to my first job, located in Manhattan, when I attended school in Brooklyn and could not afford subway fare. If I was lucky, a friend with a full fare card could swipe me in. Otherwise, I’d have to take 3 buses taking over an hour (often longer with traffic) for what should be a 10 minute trip, or find the money for subway fare. I often didn’t get home until 8pm with little time to finish homework. This was made worse when MTA disabled Select Bus Service from accepting transfers on half-fare MetroCards,”said Jaylen C. of Brooklyn Tech, 12th Grade.

"Today's students have enough problems without having to dig through their pockets for pennies to get to school. Thanks to Assemblymember Epstein for standing up for students who rely on public transit. We encourage the MTA and City to find a solution that works for New York's families,"said Danny Pearlstein, Policy and Communications Director at Riders Alliance.

”As a half fare student, I am forced to walk and beg my friends for two-trip metro cards whenever I need to go to Track or any extracurricular activities outside of the school. I am forced to walk even if I am injured, too sick to walk, or whenever I carry heavy loads of school equipment to reach school. I had to miss out on many athletic, job, and community service opportunities because I simply cannot pack a bag full of coins wherever I go when my bag is already stuffed with school supplies. If the drivers or friends who take pity on me can see this issue, you all should as well,”said Adam F. of Eleanor Roosevelt High School, 12th Grade.