Liberation photo: Joyce Chediac

New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority has announced another unjust fare hike that will fall on the backs of this city’s workers. In a series of poorly advertised public meetings, the MTA board claimed that the fare hikes are necessary for the subway system’s maintenance.

But workers knew better. For many, the MTA fare hike announcement was a call to action.  In every borough these hearings were packed with people calling out the MTA, voicing their outrage as fares are already not affordable for many working and poor people, and the quality of service continues to worsen each year.

The Party for Socialism and Liberation “swipe it forward” activists were present at several of the MTA’s public hearings. Their message was to to build unity to fight fare hikes. They gave out  over 1,000 leaflets encouraging others to swipe their unlimited metrocard to admit others, helping  those in need avoid fare beating charges which overwhelmingly effect Black and Latino people.

Some 1.7 million people, or 19 percent of this city  live below the federal poverty line. Poverty is as high as 40% in some Bronx neighborhoods.  Some 91 percent of poor families must pay 50 percent or more of their salaries on rents. Many of the city’s poorest have nothing left for transportation even with no hikes.

This is why PSL approached these MTA hearings not only to oppose the fare hikes, but also to  urge all who buy monthly unlimited metrocards to use them to admit others by “swiping it forward.” Eighteen minutes after swiping your card in the slot to enter the subway, it can be used again, and it is legal.

In Queens PSL activist organized a #swipeitforward action. People in the community were swiped on the train if they needed. Flyers were given to passersby and many riders approved the message by declaring they already swipe for those in need but will look out for it more in acknowledgement of the campaign.

Aya Salem. Liberation photo.

Hundreds of people attended the heavily policed Dec. 10 MTA fare hearing in Brooklyn. The crowd was inter-generational; those from diverse communities including and people with special needs also made statements, opposing fare hikes in NYC, when the train system is so deplorable. PSL member Aya Salem exposed the city’s focus on the further gentrification of Queens with the Amazon development plan, instead of people’s needs for a better MTA- a thought that many community members also shared.

The Justice Center en el Barrio has continually offered free swipes to those in need after their public meetings.

In Long Island PSL activist handed out flyers and built their growing base, meeting new activists and supporters. Many from the suburbs who ride the railroad to jobs in New York City would feel the increase twice—on the train into New York, and once in New York, for a subway fare to their job.

In the Bronx activists and community members attended a public hearing and built with attendees to coordinate a #swipeitforward forward action in the south Bronx on Jan. 20.

Poor criminalized for fare jumping

Why is this swipe it forward campaign so important?

It is well known by city officials that the poor cannot afford the fare. Instead of offering assistance, the poor are blamed. About 208,000 people ride the subway each day without paying — nearly 4 percent of all subway riders during the fourth quarter of  2018. The city calls this “theft of services,” a misdemeanor which, up until last year, could result in the punishment of a year in jail.  Arrests for fare beating were supposed to stop, but police are still haunting subway stations in oppressed communities and arresting youth who jump the turnstiles.

After repeated stalls, a long-promised “Fare Fare” half price of $60 for a monthly metrocard was announced this month by Mayor Bill De Blasio. But this was only for 30,000 people, when even the city  estimates that half-fare cards are needed by 800,000 people living below the poverty line here. A single fare metro card, which is all many can afford, was not included in the plan.

Tax Wall Street for repairs and upkeep!

Some 2.4 million people ride the buses and trains every workday here.  While fare hikes impact disproportionately on the poor, fares are an unofficial tax on all workers to get to and from their jobs.

The MTA is  a private corporation that presents itself as a public agency. The Board can introduce fare hikes at its own discretion, and the politicians then claim that there is nothing they can do. The MTA Board should be dismantled and a new one should be directly elected and the agency’s books opened up. The fare hikes can be reversed by taxing Wall Street and the city’s billionaires to drastically lower the fares.

A new funding structure could make “public” transit truly public again, and it could be free.

Politicians will not save us. We must organize ourselves. By swiping your metrocard fare forward you are helping build your community. If you live in New York, join or create a #swipeitforward action in your community or simply look out for those who are need.

Get involved in the movement to say no more fare hikes on our backs!