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Bike Sharing

City Council Calls for de Blasio to Fund Bike-Share Expansion and Fair Fares

5:28 PM EDT on April 4, 2017

City Council finance chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito at budget hearings last month. Photo: William Alatriste for NYC Council

The City Council is calling for two major transportation-related changes to Mayor de Blasio's budget: discount subway fares and Citi Bike expansion.

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and finance chair Ferreras-Copeland propose $12 million for bike-share expansion and $50 million to start phasing in discount MTA fares for New Yorkers in need [PDF].

Those recommendations reflect widespread support on the council for both initiatives. In January, 34 council members wrote to de Blasio advocating for subsidies to fund bike-share expansion. The "Fair Fares" coalition, meanwhile, has picked up the support of 35 members for discounted rides for low-income New Yorkers.

De Blasio has so far declined to fund either. He's said that the state should foot the bill for discount fares, since the state operates the MTA. And while his DOT committed to "five-borough bike-share" in its recent strategic plan, it has yet to lay out a strategy for achieving that goal.

Mark-Viverito and Ferreras-Copeland envision a $50 million pilot version of Fair Fares that would "assess its effectiveness and popularity" -- a first step on the path to fully funding a program for the 800,000 New Yorkers living below the federal poverty line. Advocates estimate the annual cost of providing half-priced MetroCards to all residents living in poverty would come to $212 million.

"My colleagues and I are ready find a way to get [Fair Fares] done creatively after hearing concerns about cost," said transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez. "We're hoping to find a willing partner in our mayor, who has shown he cares deeply about getting city residents out of poverty and the criminal justice system."

In a statement, the Riders Alliance and Community Service Society endorsed the proposal, calling the council's recommendations "major step towards ensuring that low-income New Yorkers will be able to afford essential access to our bus and subway system."

The $12 million figure for Citi Bike expansion would cover the capital cost of adding 2,000 bikes, according to Rodriguez spokesperson Russell Murphy. In the fall, Citi Bike operator Motivate told the council that it can't expand faster than that. A recurring annual allocation of $12 million could fund a multi-year expansion process as bike-share reaches the compact, walkable neighborhoods where it would be well-used.

Murphy said the final arrangement, which council members hope will bring Citi Bike to the Bronx, Manhattan and, if feasible, Staten Island, would be determined through negotiations between the city and Motivate.

"Without funding [for bike-share] in this budget, expansion will halt in its tracks, leaving lower-income communities of color off the map once again," Rodriguez said.

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