By Brooklyn Reader

March 21, 2015, 10:08 am

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Public Advocate Letitia James
Public Advocate Letitia James

Ahead of Sunday’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) fare increase, Public Advocate Letitia James called on city and state lawmakers to consider utilizing a sliding fares scale based on residents’ income.

Additionally, James called for as re-institution of the commuter tax –  a slight tax on commuters that live outside of but work in the city that was legislated away in 1999.

Joining James in address the impact of the fare hikes on New Yorkers, particularly low-income and working individuals and families were transit riders, Community Service Society, Rider’s Alliance, the Straphangers Campaign and 32BJ.

“This city relies on public transportation, and yet too often New Yorkers are unable to afford MetroCards,” said James. “If we are raising fares, we must make sure New Yorkers never have to choose between going to work or going to an interview and putting food on the table. Seattle, San Francisco, and several smaller cities offer income-based reduced fare programs. We should closely examine what these cities are doing and find a solution that works for New York.”

This month, Seattle introduced a reduced-fare program for individuals with household incomes at or below 200 percent of the poverty line. San Francisco also offers a reduced fare based on household income as do some smaller cities in the U.S.

According to data from the Community Service Society’s Unheard Third poll, 31 percent of the city’s working poor and a quarter of workers in households with incomes below twice the federal poverty level reported frequently being unable to buy a MetroCard. The same survey found that a majority of New Yorkers, across income levels and party affiliations, favor offering half-priced fares to low-wage workers.

“Just as we offer discount fares for seniors and people with disabilities, we should at least explore the feasibility of providing a similar program for those with limited incomes,” said David R. Jones, President and CEO of the Community Service Society.  “Today, a minimum-wage worker working full time would have to work an additional half day a week to afford a Metrocard. We can do better than that, and if we truly want to make New York a more equitable city, we must.”

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