NEW YORK (WPIX) – Angry students, threatened with the loss of free transportation to school, took their battle to the top and appealed to MTA Chairman Jay Walder not to eliminate their MetroCards.
Some two-dozen students** representing different groups, showed up at MTA headquarters with 5,000 petitions from teachers, parents and supportive New Yorkers. They urged the cash-strapped agency to find another way to save money, and not do away with the Metro Cards for students.
Faced with an $800 million deficit, the MTA said it can’t afford to continue issuing the free and discounted cards. Almost 600,000 students receive the cards which the MTA says represents $214 million a year in lost revenue.
After the almost 90 minute meeting, Chairman Walder said the students spoke eloquently and understood the crisis facing the MTA. He explained that given the agency’s huge shortfall, it could no longer cover the free rides and said such transportation for education should be the responsibility of the city and state. With the state some $9 billion dollars in the red, it’s not likely any immediate help would be coming from Albany.
Walder said he was hopeful the MTA could find a solution and assured the students that there is still time to argue the case.
He noted that the MTA Board will not vote on the MetroCard issue at the March 24th meeting, as some had expected. The matter is not likely to be decided until June at the earliest.
Walder insisted the MTA wants to see students continue to have free travel. The extra time, he said, will give the agency an opportunity to discuss the matter further with the city and state.
Student spokesman Praz Baura said that he couldn’t characterize the meeting with the MTA chief as a victory, but called it a "step forward." The students left, voicing pleasure that they at least had the sympathetic ear of the MTA’s head honcho.
**Members of the Urban Youth Collaborative, led by youth from Make the Road New York.
Watch the video here.