Mayor’s FY25 Executive Budget excludes Transportation priorities

City Hall, NY – At the City Council’s Executive Budget hearing by the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the Council called for Mayor Adams’ investment in Fair Fares expansion, Vision Zero education and outreach, and equitable street safety infrastructure. While the Mayor’s proposed Executive Budget allocates funds for some transportation programs, it fails to adequately invest in proven solutions to make the city’s streets and transportation system more equitable and safer. The Council’s Preliminary Budget Response outlined these priority investments for the city budget.

Speaker Adrienne Adams and the Council have consistently advocated for increased support of Fair Fares, so more working-class New Yorkers have access to our transit system and opportunity. Investing in Fair Fares can provide increased access to public transit for more New Yorkers who cannot afford it at a time when ridership levels are still recovering from their pandemic-decline. The Council is calling for a baselined increase of $54.2 million to expand Fair Fares eligibility from 120% to 200% of the federal poverty level (FPL), which Speaker Adams urged in her 2024 State of the City address. This eligibility adjustment would facilitate access to affordable public transit for more low-income New Yorkers to pursue opportunities across the city.

Expanding access to New Yorkers living at 200% of the federal poverty level is critical to broadening pathways to economic opportunity and strengthening the transit system. New Yorkers with income below 200% of the FPL report struggling with transit affordability at nearly the same rate as those at the existing 120% FPL eligibility level, underscoring that Fair Fares is currently not capturing the need for transit relief among low-income New Yorkers.

Fair Fares, administered by the New York City Human Resources Administration, offers a 50 percent subsidy on public transit fares for residents with eligible incomes regardless of immigration status. The Council and Administration first baselined $75 million in annual funding for the program in the Fiscal Year 2023 budget. As part of the Fiscal Year 2024 budget agreement, the Council successfully negotiated with the Administration for a baselined increase of $20 million for an expansion of eligibility from 100 to 120 percent FPL. This partially advanced a priority of Speaker Adams’ 2023 State of the City address, increasing the program’s annual budget to $95 million.

The Council has also advocated for increased equitable investments in street safety infrastructure, such as daylighting and other traffic calming measures, to ensure communities most impacted by traffic violence are safer. 

Additionally, despite progress over the past decade under the Vision Zero initiative, there were still 260 traffic deaths in the last fiscal year, including 143 cyclist fatalities. The Council has been calling for a restoration and baselining of $3 million in funding for Vision Zero education and outreach efforts to change behaviors and prevent traffic fatalities, which was left out of the Mayor’s Executive Budget.

Since the start of Vision Zero a decade ago, the number of traffic deaths declined by 16%, and pedestrian deaths went down 29 percent, but progress has recently been stifled. In Fiscal Year 2023, there were 260 traffic deaths, including 143 cyclist fatalities that made it the deadliest year this century. Yet, the Mayor’s proposed budgets reduced support for the initiative’s efforts to reduce traffic injuries and deaths.

Traffic fatalities disproportionately occur in communities of color, which have not received an equitable share of street safety infrastructure improvements. Educational efforts are also a key component to advancing safer streets. The Council is urging permanent restoration of this critical funding in the city budget, rather than cuts that reduce its ability to improve the safety of city streets.

“Safe, equitable and efficient public transportation and roadways are vital to the success for all New Yorkers,” said New York City Council Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chair, Selvena N. Brooks-Powers. “It’s time for the city budget to advance Fair Fares in helping more New Yorkers gain affordable access to our public transit system and opportunity.

“In a year with 260 traffic deaths and increased safety concerns on our public transportation system, cuts to Vision Zero are unacceptable,” continued Chair Brooks-Powers. New Yorkers deserve a budget that truly invests in their best interests; and its disingenuous to call for safe streets without putting the much-needed funding resources towards critical programs that are proven to improve safety and quality of life across our city. I am calling on the administration to restore funding and baseline it in the city budget.”

“Since the first findings from our Unheard Third survey showed one in four low-income New Yorkers struggling with transit affordability, the Community Service Society of New York (CSS) has been advocating for making our mass transit system more affordable and accessible to working class New Yorkers who rely on it the most,” said David R. Jones, President and CEO of Community Service Society of New York. “At its current income threshold (120 percent of poverty), the Fair Fares program is not reaching the hundreds of thousands of working New Yorkers struggling with transit affordability. In fact, a New Yorker working full-time, year-round at the minimum wage makes too much to qualify for Fair Fares. It’s time to unlock the potential of Fair Fares to be the transformative program we always envisioned. To do that, we must expand the program’s income threshold to 200 percent of poverty, so that more working New Yorkers can take advantage of it.”  

“Mayor Adams must heed the City Council’s call to expand Fair Fares eligibility to 200% of the federal poverty line,” said Riders Alliance Senior Organizer Danna Dennis. “The New Yorkers who make our city work are struggling to make ends meet and need more affordable commutes right now. Rent, food and other necessities grow more expensive by the day. The mayor cannot call himself a champion of the working class without expanding Fair Fares and saving families up to $1,500 each year.”