1 million New Yorkers will soon be eligible for discounted MTA MetroCards. Here’s how to apply

The new budget between Mayor Eric Adams and the City Council includes an expansion of Fair Fares, which offers half-priced MetroCards for low income New Yorkers.

Currently, more than 300,000 people receive the discounted rides on public transit through the program that launched in 2019. With the expansion, nearly 200,000 more people qualify for the program.

But the Community Service Society, which lobbied for the expansion, estimates only 80,000 more people will actually enroll. That’s a sign, according to an economist for the group, Debi Chatterjee, that many people who are eligible don’t use public transit – or simply don’t know the program exists.

Here’s a quick primer on Fair Fares.

Who qualifies

New Yorkers between the ages of 18 and 64 can apply.

Eligibility is determined by income. Under the new budget agreement, eligibility will expand from 120% of the federal poverty to 145%. That means an individual must have a yearly income of no more than $21,837. The threshold for a family of four is an income of $45,240.

The Community Service Society, which first proposed the program, estimated 198,225 more New Yorkers will qualify for the program once the expansion is finalized. That means more than 1 million New Yorkers could apply for the program.

Currently, there are only about 335,966 enrolled in the program, according to the city.

How the Fair Fares MetroCard works

The city website notes it will take about 30 days to review an application. Once approved, a Fair Fares MetroCard is good for one year. For now, applicants receive a MetroCard, but later this year the MTA hopes to begin offering OMNY cards with the service.

Once a commuter has the card, he or she can add value or time just like any other MetroCard.

If you add time (such as a weekly or monthly pass), you’ll only pay half the cost.

If you add money, the vending machine will still charge the full rate. But each swipe only deducts half the cost of a ride.

Fair Fares also works for Access-A-Ride. The discounted MetroCards cannot be used on express buses, the Long Island Railroad, Metro-North, PATH trains or the AirTrain.

How to apply

The easiest way is on the city’s website here.

People can also get help applying at any Human Resources Administration office.

The city notes applicants should bring identification, proof of residency and income. Applicants will not be asked about immigration status.

If we missed anything, the city has a detailed FAQ here.

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