Opinion: College students should not have to pay for Metrocards

An NYU student government resolution last spring outlined a plan to bring university students discounted Metrocards. It should be implemented as soon as possible.

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Kevin Wu

Subsidizing transportation costs, including subway fares, would alleviate the financial burden faced by commuting students.(Kevin Wu for WSN)

Blake Salesin, Staff Writer

New York City is not cheap. We know that. As students in the nation’s largest city by population, we find ways to finesse every discount code for restaurant takeout and take advantage of the free museum passes we can find through NYU. Existing is a treasure hunt of saving money because it feels like we are always weighed down by the immense prices of our daily necessities. The average rent in Manhattan exceeded $5,000 this summer. Households in and around the city pay 49.1% more for electricity than the national average. Food prices in the area increased 10.2% throughout the past year. This is at an alarming rate for me, a student told all his life that it is cheap and affordable to cook at home.

These increases unfortunately are out of our control, but there is one expense that shouldn’t be eating away at students’ wallets: public transportation.

New York City is one of few major cities in the United States to not offer discounted public transportation passes, despite having the highest volume of daily riders on its buses and trains. According to the “Resolution to Address Transportation Costs for NYU Students” brought to the NYU Student Government Assembly last spring, “94% of all commutes involved public or self-powered modes of transportation with 41% coming from the subway.” 

This resolution pushes NYU to address transportation costs for students by providing discounts for public transport. Other universities in the city work with the Metropolitan Transport Authority to lower the cost for students. Why shouldn’t NYU? The university community spans from Downtown Brooklyn to Long Island City — daily commutes to and from campus from these locations quickly add up. The call to action has not fallen on deaf ears. 

“The NYU administrators we have worked with, Steve Huer and Christopher Echeverria have been super helpful in providing contacts within MTA and supporting our resolution,” GLS senior Ryan Carney, the Liberal Studies Senator and Student Assembly Deputy Director of Finance, said. 

As I talked more with Carney, MTA’s unique shortcomings became more clear. Subsidized tickets for university students are common across major cities such as Boston, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. American University, for example, introduced the U-Pass in 2016 to give students unlimited semester-long passes for $136. It would be easy and effective for NYU to implement a program like this for its students by following the guidelines laid out by Carney and the SGA. 

“There is interest from other universities we have been in contact with,” Carney said. “This isn’t just a concern for NYU students, but for the NYC university community as a whole.”

There are, of course, obstacles to implementing a discounted student pass program in the city. The main hurdle would be funding. Carney has not found a suitable funder for the initiative and it seems that NYU has not stepped up to make a commitment themselves. 

Currently, the resolution is waiting to gain traction with local officials. Carney mentioned that Senator Chuck Schumer is a prime candidate to advocate for the resolution given his previous work to bring transportation discounts to commuter students in 2015. 

As NYU students, we are enticed by the possibility of culture and infinite activities at our fingertips, but it comes with a price — $2.75 each way, to be exact. It is time for the MTA and New York City to catch up with its cosmopolitan counterparts across the country, to provide a break to already financially troubled university students. The city can’t be our campus if it costs a pretty penny to see it all.

WSN’s Opinion section strives to publish ideas worth discussing. The views presented in the Opinion section are solely the views of the writer.

Contact Blake Salesin at [email protected]