Journal of Law and Policy


Sara Amri


Low-income New Yorkers rely heavily on public transportation to travel around the city. However, riding the New York City subway system is becoming increasingly unaffordable. New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has set forth plans to implement semiannual fare increases. No alleviation has been provided, however, to New Yorkers living at or below the federal poverty level, despite the discounts provided to other groups regardless of their income. The inability to travel can have a devastating impact on the upward mobility of poor New Yorkers, and, alarmingly, fare increases appear to have a disparate impact on low-income people of color. The Federal Transit Authority’s (FTA) Title VI Guidance represents an important tool to help ensure that fare increases are implemented fairly. As a recipient of federal funds, the MTA is obligated to comply with federal regulations and guidance. Monitoring the MTA’s compliance with the FTA’s Title VI guidance, and holding government officials accountable for their inaction, is necessary to ensure fare increases do not have a disproportionate burden on low-income New Yorkers. Community based organizations and grassroots advocacy groups are critical to achieving this. Citizen audits, which can be formally embedded in the FTA’s regulatory process, are a promising means of ensuring MTA’s full compliance with its Title VI obligations, as well as the future political prioritization of reduced-price MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers. The False Claims Act also represents another tool for transit advocates seeking to hold grantees of federal funds, like the MTA, directly accountable for their failure to fulfill their responsibilities under Title VI.