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Velázquez Proposes Free Transit for Vulnerable Populations

Velázquez Proposes Free Transit for Vulnerable Populations
November 19, 2019
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) announced legislation that would provide free transit benefits to some of New York’s most vulnerable demographics, including seniors, people with disabilities and those whose income is 300% or less of the poverty line. The “Transportation Equity Act” authorizes $1 billion each year to help public transit agencies, around the nation, provide these benefits. 

“Every two years, we’ve seen MTA’s Board vote to hike fares on commuters,” said Velázquez. “These price increases are felt most acutely by seniors, persons with disabilities and low-income New Yorkers. It is time we invest federally in making local transit more accessible and affordable, and this bill constitutes a step in that direction.”

Velázquez’s legislation would create a new federal grant program to fund free passes for eligible individuals. The bill identifies several groups of people who could receive the free transit benefits. They include: those 60 years or older; persons with disabilities; and people who receive means-tested benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Spouses of these individuals and their unmarried dependents would also qualify. 

The bill’s introduction comes on the heels of accusations of “over policing” in New York’s subway system. Meanwhile, plans to hire additional police to patrol the subway have sparked renewed discussion about MTA’s future. Recent arrests of vendors on subway platforms and an increase in summonses for fare evasion have been met with criticism from the local community. NYPD has issued 21,000 more civil summonses for fare evasion in 2019 than in 2018.

“Many of us were outraged by the recent unnecessary arrests and mistreatment of vendors in New York subways,” Velázquez added. “Their harassment is symptomatic of how our society often criminalizes poverty. The last thing New Yorkers want is more over-policing on our subways. Instead, they want reliable, accessible transit options that we can all count on to get to work, school or around the city, regardless of economic status. This bill would advance that goal.” 

The Congresswoman’s legislation has been referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. A summary of the bill is online here and the bill text is available here.