Chairman Walder Meets with Students
On Wednesday, MTA Chairman and CEO Jay H. Walder met with New York City students and representatives from the Urban Youth Collaborative to discuss the MTA's $800 million budget shortfall and inability to continue funding the free and discounted student MetroCard program in light of State funding cuts. Walder reiterated the MTA's position that students should not have to pay to get to school, and committed that the MTA Board would not vote on the proposal until absolutely necessary for implementation, allowing more time for the State and City to address funding for the program.
More than a dozen students from around New York City met with Walder for over an hour before holding a joint press conference. The students expressed their concern about the impact of eliminating student MetroCards, which Walder echoed while encouraging the students to use their powerful voices to focus State and City officials on the issue.
"I strongly believe that students in New York City should be able to travel to school without paying, just like students around the state," said Chairman Walder. "The MTA has been compared to the yellow school bus, and that's a good analogy. Students don't pay to get on the school bus, but the bus doesn't show up unless the State or school district provides funding. I wish I could commit to fund this program, but the MTA simply does not have the money to cover this State and City responsibility any longer."
Prior to 1994, New York City and New York State paid the entire costs of the program to fund free or half-price student fares. In 1995, an agreement was made between the City, State and the MTA to divide these costs equally, but over time, MTA costs have increased while reimbursements from the City and State have not. In November of 2009, the State dramatically reduced its school fare reimbursement to cover only $6 million of the $214 million program. At the same time, the MTA is facing a nearly $800 million budget shortfall due to State cuts and deteriorating dedicated tax revenues.
The proposal assumes that one half of the current discount will be eliminated in September of 2010 and the remaining half discount will be discontinued in September of 2011. Walder told the students that final approval for a September implementation isn't required this month and assured them that the vote would not take place until absolutely necessary later in the spring.