Why We Must Not Cut Free Student MetroCards

Joseph P. Addabbo Jr

April 05, 2010

Why We Must Not Cut Free Student MetroCards

I strongly oppose the MTA’s proposed cuts and funding reductions to the MetroCard student passes that would affect over half-million schoolchildren.  In these tough economic times I understand that everyone is tightening their belts but cutting the free student MetroCards would be a crippling blow to lower-and moderate-income families. 

To put this in perspective a typical New York family of four with two working parents and two school-age children would see the cost of mass transit increase by approximately $2,300 a year.  Since the average median income within my district is about $44,000 that would translate to 5 percent of a typical families income.   Assemblyman Mike Miller further points out that a mother of three commuting students would have to spend $267 for the now free monthly passes. If she earns $400 a week, she would be spending 17 percent of her income to send her children to school. 

The actual real world costs to working families are devastating. 

We must work together to find a reasonable and responsible solution to this new budget crisis.  We owe it to the mothers and fathers who are working hard every single day to put food on the table, pay the bills and ensure their children get a quality education. 

I am ready and willing to roll up my selves and get to work. The State realizes that it needs to do its fair part this is why the New York State Senate will restore previous levels of funding. We are doing our part and now we need the MTA to do theirs.

We must explore alternatives to these proposed cuts while improving the long term fiscal health of the MTA.  I strongly suggest we look towards Federal Stimulus money to help plug the current fiscal holes within the MTA’s budget.  I understand that this will be a one-time revenue source but the stimulus money was intended to save jobs and push more money into the economy.  I think using federal money this year to save 700 jobs within the MTA and to keep $2,300 in the pockets of working families will do a great deal to stimulate our local economy.

In addition, I strongly suggest that the MTA cooperate with an independent audit of its internal operations, make administrative cuts, examine its contracts and spending processes to find the cost-savings.  Last year I helped pass landmark legislation that was implemented yesterday requiring greater public oversight and transparency of public authorities, such as the MTA.  This law will help lead to the streamlining of services and the elimination of waste from public authorities, saving taxpayers money and reducing the severity of these proposed cuts in years to come.   

The MTA also needs to examine its own spending habits. Currently MTA chief Jay Walder and 790 other administers who work in the main MTA headquarters receive free Metrocards. The MTA also currently gives free LIRR passes to not only 6,853 LIRR employees but 2,626 of their spouses, 3,427 of their dependents and 4,776 LIRR retirees and their 3,684 spouses. A monthly LIRR pass costs $232 which means the MTA spends over $3.5 million a month and over $35 million a year! Metro-North workers also benefit with 2,653 spouses, 653 dependents and 1,918 retirees and 1,124 of their spouses get free passes. At an average monthly cost of $186 to $412 this totals anywhere from $1 million to $2.5 million a month!  Before the MTA can even consider elimnating student Metrocards for students across the City the MTA has to take a hard look at its own finances.

The elimination of student Metrocards would be catastrophic for working families. We all need to work together to ensure that our children have access to the education that they deserve.  I am ready and willing to work with the Governor, the Assembly and the MTA to save the student Metrocard.  Now is the time for us all to work together to find a solution, our children deserve nothing less.