Students Need Affordable Public Transportation Now

Students in big, urban cities like New York rely on public transportation to commute to school everyday. Getting to school shouldn’t require breaking the bank for working-class students. 

New York’s public transportation is central to the functioning of the city and the lives of all New Yorkers, but its costs should not be disproportionately paid by working-class people. More than half, 56% to be exact, of New Yorkers use public transportation to get to their jobs or schools. Out of that 56%, most are students. Commuters, including students, from Long Island can struggle to get to school as the average trip on the Long Island Rail Road costs $9.25. It’s time for New York to subsidize transportation for low-income students and provide alternative, cheaper options for commuting students in NYC as well as surrounding regions such as New Jersey and Long Island

As a student from Long Island, I have to pay almost $25 per day for the hour trip to and from school. Between the price of tuition, textbooks, phone bills, food, and more, students have more than enough to worry about spending money on. Not to mention, public transportation such as the Long Island Railroad’s monthly pass is not affordable and the passes offered require an unrealistic amount of travel to make it worth the investment. A monthly pass costs around $243, which averages 26 off-peak trips. This is extremely unrealistic and unaffordable for low-income families such as mine, especially considering most college students don’t go to school five days a week, and some even go only once or twice a week.

Former Hunter College student Jasmine Yehia commuted from New Jersey and says “it takes me about one and a half-hours to get to school on average because of delays in the trains as well as the NJ transit. I take the New Jersey Transit train to get to New York. After that, I sometimes must take three trains, and have to wait even longer for the next train. It costs me about $40 a day just to get to and from school.” 

Yehia spoke about invisible costs that accumulate due to inaccessible public transportation. “Why do I have to pay so much just to get an education? Since I live in North Jersey and did not get enough financial aid to dorm, I also must pay for an Uber to the train station, the train ticket, which is approximately almost $15 round trip, and $2.75 for the subway multiple times a day.” 

With more than 1 million students in the NYC school system, we need change and we need it now.

Public transportation is unaffordable and commuters still face frequent delays, overcrowding, and unsafe situations. Last year, a masked gunman walked into a subway station in Sunset Park, Brooklyn and shot multiple people, wounding about a dozen. Some citizens were left in critical condition with trauma that will follow them for a lifetime. The police blamed everything from malfunctioning walkie-talkies to out-of-service surveillance cameras for their inefficiency and unwillingness to protect New Yorkers. However, when it comes to fare evasion or street vendors, the NYPD is constantly looking for opportunities to write tickets and fine or even arrest people. Considering the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) had a daily revenue of $46 million in 2022, this is unacceptable since the money spent to install more cops in stations is less than the money that would be saved preventing fare evasion.

No student should have to worry about whether or not they could afford to get an education, much less getting to school to get that education. With a New York state Budget of $220 billion dollars, public schools such as CUNY can support more affordable options for student transportation. Grants and programs for low-income students will provide relief, necessary relief that will help us change the future of New York.