Student leaders** pledged Wednesday to lobby the state and city to save their free MetroCards after meeting privately with the MTA chairman.
“This isn’t just the MTA’s problem,” said Khaair Morrison, 15, who attends Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows, Queens. “It’s the state and local officials’ problem.”
A budget shortfall pushed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to propose charging students to take mass transit to school unless the city and state pick up the annual $214 million tab.
Students had blasted the MTA at a series of public hearings on the transit budget and asked for a sitdown with MTA Chairman Jay Walder.
“We’d like to have as much time as possible for discussions with the state and city and hopefully find a way through this difficult situation,” Walder said after gathering with about a dozen students Wednesday. “Our goal is to have free MetroCards for the student.”
Municipalities everywhere else in the state pay for student transportation with state aid, transit officials said. The city gave the MTA $45 million last year while the state contributed $6 million.
Mayor Bloomberg has said he opposes charging students but that the city doesn’t have any funds to spare.
Students would pay half fares starting in September and full fares beginning in September 2011 if funding doesn’t come through.
The board is expected to vote next week on a package of cuts to bus and subway service to help plug an approximately $750 million budget gap.
**Members of the Urban Youth Collaborative, led by youth from Make the Road New York.