Bronx Residents Say Another MTA Fare Hike Would Be Devastating: ‘Do I Buy Groceries or Buy a MetroCard?’


For Love Andujar, a single mother in the Bronx, facing the latest MTA fare increase means struggling to choose between buying a gallon of milk for her two children, or putting money on her MetroCard to get to work.

Andujar, who recently left her job to care for her son and grandmother, is currently enrolled in a program to re-enter the workforce. But she says it’s difficult to attend because she often can’t afford the cost of a MetroCard.

“There’ve been times where I’ve had to call out from work or miss school so I could give my fare to my child,” says Andujar. “What happens to people like me? The cost of $135 a month is a lot of money for me. It puts me in a position to have to sacrifice food or an activity with my kids just to be able to go out and find work.”

Andujar was one of many Bronx residents, community advocates, and elected officials to testify at a Bronx public hearing on two MTA fare hike proposals on Tuesday night. Attendees urged the MTA board members to consider the impact of the impending 4 percent increase on fares and tolls of subways, bridges, and tunnels on commuters, especially when current fares are unaffordable for low-income New Yorkers.

One of the two plans set to be implemented in March would keep the base fare at $2.75, but reduce the 11 percent bonus riders get for putting $5.50 on their card to 5 percent. The second option would increase the base fare of a MetroCard swipe to $3 with a purchase bonus of 16 percent.

Ronald Griffin, a Bronx resident and member of the Riders Alliance, a commuter advocacy group, says he can’t afford a MetroCard for himself or his two sons, who are both in college.

“I shouldn’t have to think: do I buy groceries, pay my rent, or buy a MetroCard?” says Griffin, 46. “I think that, soon, this city will only be for the rich.”

According to a report released in April by the Community Service Society, an antipoverty non-profit organization, one of four low-income working New Yorkers cannot afford bus and subway fares. The Community Service Society, along with Riders Alliance, are pushing Mayor Bill de Blasio to consider subsidized fares for the approximately 800,000 New Yorkers at or below the poverty line, and include an additional $200 million in funding for half-price MetroCards in the executive budget for January.

“We have this real emergency where folks have to sacrifice meals for MetroCards,” Rebecca Bailin, campaign manager of Riders Alliance, tells the Voice. “Meanwhile, the fares continue to go up and still we see terrible service, signal malfunctions, transit deserts, a lack of buses. Mayor de Blasio ran on a platform of economic equality, and that’s part of why we’re asking him to alleviate poverty and get people to work, school, and doctor’s appointments.”

A majority of Council Members and several borough presidents support the idea. Bronx Deputy Borough President, Aurelia Greene, speaking on behalf of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., noted the Community Service Society report’s findings that transit expenses often exceeded 10 percent of family budgets for the working poor, and the “Fair Fare” program could save riders up to $700 each year off monthly unlimited passes.

“For a relatively small amount of money, considering the size of the city’s budget, we can make the lives of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers appreciably better,” Greene told the board members.

Here are the upcoming MTA hearings on the fare increase scheduled for this month:

Thursday, December 15, 2016:
West of Hudson
Crowne Plaza Suffern
Montebello Ballroom
3 Executive Blvd
Suffern, NY.
Registration period is open from 4 to 8 p.m. Hearing begins at 5 p.m.
By Metro-North: from Hoboken Terminal New Jersey to Suffern Station where taxi service is available

Monday, December 19, 2016:
Walt Whitman Theater at Brooklyn College
2900 Campus Road (near the junction of Nostrand Avenue and Avenue H)
Brooklyn, NY.
Registration period is open from 4 to 8 p.m. Hearing begins at 5 p.m.
By Subway: 2 or 5 train to Flatbush Av-Brooklyn College
By Bus: B6, B11, B41, B41-LTD, B44, B44 SBS, B103, Q35

Tuesday, December 20, 2016:
New York Power Authority
Jaguar Room
123 Main Street (Enter on Hamilton Ave.)
White Plains, NY.
Registration period is open from 4 to 8 p.m. Hearing begins at 5 p.m.
By Metro-North: to White Plains Station