Mass Transit

The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign fights for safe, reliable, accessible, and affordable New York City mass transit, offers critical information to the public, and empowers riders.
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The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign serves as a voice for New York City’s eight and a half million daily subway and bus riders. Since 1979, we have organized the riding public to speak up for affordable fares, more attractive service, and the continued rebuilding and expansion of public transit.
In a city like New York, mass transit defines where you live, where you play, and where you go to school. It is the “great equalizer” of opportunity and why accessible, affordable, and safe transportation is so important. When the Straphangers Campaign was founded in 1979, New York City's mass transit system had deteriorated to a point that seemed almost beyond repair. Track fires, delays, broken doors, graffiti, and buses in marked disrepair were a regular occurrence. The subways were viewed as dangerous and unreliable. Ridership plummeted to the lowest level in 80 years. Businesses cited poor transit as the leading reason for moving out of New York. The system had become a symbol of the decline of the city itself.
Today, just like in 1979, we are at an inflection point: As we emerge from the isolation of the last several years, New Yorkers are looking to reconnect and start afresh, but they are feeling like the city, state, and Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) are failing them. New York City is not a car city – it is a mass transit city facing a crisis in confidence in the public service that is the lifeblood of our city, and as such it is critical that our public transit system represents the future and not the past.
Over the last 40 years, our organizing efforts have brought massive improvements, including billions of dollars in funds to buy new subway cars, fix stations, repair tracks, and expand the system. We also helped to win unlimited-ride MetroCards and fare discounts for low-income New Yorkers. Most recently, won a commitment from city and state transit agencies to redesign and improve local bus service, as well as an over $15-billion-dollar investment in funding for transit infrastructure over the next decade with the implementation of congestion pricing.
Despite our many victories, our advocacy is needed now more than ever. The pandemic drove half the city off of public transportation and into personal cars amidst a climate emergency, contributing further to air pollution and street congestion. The cost of living has skyrocketed, as the MTA votes to hike fares while cracking down on fare evasion. Our buses are still the slowest in the country, moving at an average speed of seven miles per hour. Transit accessibility is in a complete state of disrepair, with less than a quarter of all subway stations ADA accessible.
There is still much work to be done to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to the reliable, affordable, and safe public transportation that they deserve. If anything, we have consistently demonstrated that we can push city and state and MTA officials to meet rider needs when we organize and hold them accountable. It is possible for New York City to have a world class public transportation system, but New Yorkers need to believe in it – and they need to see results.

Bus Turnaround Campaign

New York City’s subway system is one of the largest in the world, with 472 subway stations across the boroughs and enough rail to reach from New York City to Chicago. Yet despite the size of New York City’s vast subway network, less than two-thirds of New Yorkers live within walking distance from a subway.
Subway and rail “deserts” particularly affect more marginalized communities, many of whom depend heavily on bus service for travel. In New York, 75% of bus riders are people of color, 12% are foreign-born, and over 15% are over the age of 65. The average salary of a New York City bus rider is $28,455, compared to that of the average subway rider, which is $40,000.
The best way for the transit gap among communities to disappear is for more frequent and effective quality bus service to exist where there are transit deserts. Building new subways or other rail is simply too slow and too costly to be the only immediate solution, or even the main solution. For instance, the first phase of the Second Avenue subway – three stations – cost over $4.5 billion and a considerable amount of time.
Connecting communities by bus service is a far more viable option. Yet as bus riders know from bitter daily experience, bus service currently is unacceptably slow and unreliable. While bus ridership has dropped dramatically in recent years, there is still a considerable number of New Yorkers for whom taking alternative transit is simply not an option.
Prior to the pandemic, daily ridership on New York City buses was about two million trips. Relative to the population as a whole, these riders are more likely to be people with low incomes or people of color. Following a pattern seen in other cities, bus ridership continues to rebound faster than subway ridership, and we must make bus riders a priority. For decades, transit has faced severe challenges. The MTA and New York City Department of Transportation must respond to these challenges by prioritizing the needs of Black and brown New Yorkers, otherwise the longstanding disparities magnified by COVID-19 will be exacerbated.
As a leading member of the New York City Bus Turnaround Campaign, the Straphangers Campaign has taken a multi-year approach to fixing the city’s long-ailing bus service. By building a constituency broadly and deliberately, we hope to develop a base of riders who are willing to share their story, advocate for better bus service, and engage in a lengthy political process that is historically ambivalent to riders’ wants and needs.

Fair Fares

Along with coalition partners, the Straphangers Campaign was instrumental in the fight to win Fair Fares, a program that provides half-priced MetroCards to low-income New Yorkers. While this campaign marked a huge victory for low-income New Yorkers, its funding was reduced during the pandemic. Our advocacy in the years since has helped to win substantial funding and eligibility expansions in the FY2023 and FY2024 New York City budgets.
Still though, there are hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who are eligible for the program but are not enrolled. According to the most recent census data, roughly 900,000 New York City residents live in poverty, but only just over 312,000 low-income New Yorkers are enrolled in the program. Additionally, a recent study found that 90% of CUNY community college students use mass transit to commute to school and identified that “the challenge of affording a MetroCard came up more than any other single barrier” in college degree completion. For most New York City students, paying for mass transit is an integral part of their higher education budget, and the rising costs can result in students choosing between paying for food or textbooks and getting to class.
New York City should boost outreach programs to help eligible New Yorkers apply for the benefit, and Fair Fares should be expanded to include all current CUNY students, and to include New Yorkers at 200% of the federal poverty level.
Kathy Hochul must compel big oil to fund NY's work to the address climate crisis  (LoHud, December 7, 2023)
Big Oil should pay for the costs of climate change in NYS  (Newsday, December 5, 2023)
New York State’s higher education policies are again in the spotlight  (WAMC, December 4, 2023)
Shine the light on the judicial nomination process  (The Daily Gazette, December 4, 2023)
Lawmakers want oil companies to pay for New York climate projects  (Spectrum News, November 30, 2023)
‘Everyone can do something’ SUNY Cortland sophomore accepted to Albany future leader’s program  (Cortland Standard, November 30, 2023)
A big issue for the 2024 legislation session  (WAMC, November 27, 2023)
They gather up cans and bottles on NY streets for recycling. And they could use a raise  (LoHud, November 27, 2023)
WAMC’s David Guistina speaks with NYPIRG's Blair Horner about ethics reform, higher education, and much more.  (WAMC, November 23, 2023)
Counties, groups push Hochul for decision on bill to move local elections  (Spectrum News, November 23, 2023)
New York’s top court considers redistricting – again  (WAMC, November 21, 2023)
2023 Lookback: Budget and Legislative items  (ABC News 10, November 22, 2023)
New Yorkers vote (some did anyway)  (WAMC, November 13, 2023)
Strengthening ethics in Albany  (WAMC, November 7, 2023)
NY hospital safety ranking among worst nationally. Check your local hospital's grade  (LoHud, November 7, 2023)
What are New York State's 2023 ballot propositions? Find out  (The Daily Gazette, November 2, 2023)
Early voting 2023 has begun  (WAMC, October 30, 2023)
Noncompete campaign raises lobbying questions  (Albany Times-Union, October 27, 2023)
Hochul dodges questions on who paid for her trip to wartime Israel  (Spectrum News, October 26, 2023)
New York lawmakers seek to expand bottle law, including higher deposits  (Newsday, October 25, 2023)
News Archive
NYPIRG and a coalition of environmental organizations and local elected officials today released a review of the climate costs facing New York City and called on Governor Hochul to make the biggest oil companies – not local taxpayers – pay to cover climate damages
NYPIRG Celebrated Its Five Decades of Victories and College Student Empowerment
Author and Activist Jane Fonda, Community Service Society’s David Jones, State Senator Liz Krueger, U.S. Sen. Schumer’s State Director Martin Brennan, and New Deal Strategies’ Camille Rivera Received NYPIRG's “changemaker” Awards
Climate Superfund News Conferences: Taxpayer Tally of Climate Costs Since 8/2022 is $2.7 Billion
NYPIRG Statement on the Death of Ryan Thoresen Carson
The biblical rains that are devastating parts of the state are fresh evidence that the costs of adapting New York's infrastructure to the world climate’s "new abnormal" will be staggering. Legislation -- approved by the Senate (S.2129A) -- would require the largest oil companies to help pick up the tab and do it in a manner that will stop them from passing the costs on to consumers. Read NYPIRG's statement on downstate's devastating floods.
Advocates and Business call on Governor Hochul and DEC to release grant funds to struggling Bottle Redemption Businesses
Thousands Join March to End Fossil Fuels, Demand Biden Declare Climate Emergency & Phase Out Plan
NYers face hundreds of millions of dollars in climate costs while big oil racks up huge profits, nearly three-quarters of a trillion dollars over past 30 months
NYPIRG 50th Anniversary, Celebrating Five Decades of Victories and College Student Empowerment, Will Be Held on October 13th in NYC – Author and Activist Jane Fonda, Community Service Society's David Jones, State Senator Liz Krueger, U.S. Sen. Schumer's State Director Martin Brennan, and New Deal Strategies' Camille Rivera to Receive NYPIRG's "Changemaker" Awards
New York’s “New Normal” Not Normal at All: Frequent Climate Disasters, Staggering Costs — Governor Hochul Leaves New Yorkers on the Financial Hook for Billions of Dollars in Climate Damages and Extreme Weather Emergency Preparedness While Letting Big Oil off the Hook
NYPIRG Has Updated Its 2023 Legislative Session Review, Including the New York State Assembly Actions
With New York Budget Deficits Growing and Climate Costs Soaring, Will the Assembly Make Big Oil Pick Up the Tab? NYPIRG Urges Assembly to Pass Climate Change Superfund Act
Tale of the Tape: NYPIRG's 2023 Legislative Review – The number of bills that passed in the Senate increased, while that number decreased in the Assembly. The Governor's use of emergency "messages of necessity" continues to move upward.
Congressmen Goldman and Nadler joined with NYS legislators, NYPIRG and other advocates to call on Albany leadership to make corporate climate polluters pay
Video – Disinformation: The Fossil Fuel Industry's Campaign to Undermine New York's Climate Act
VICTORY! NYPIRG Celebrates First in the Nation Law to Electrify New Buildings
Statement: NYPIRG Reacts to Gov Hochul Leaving Climate Change Superfund Out of the Budget
As Albany Negotiates a State Budget, NYC College Students Call for Free and Reduced Price Transit Fares for Education Access
Faith Leaders, Environmentalists, Senators: New York Needs to Show The Nation How to Tackle Climate Catastrophe - Groups Urge Albany Lawmakers to Include Green Power, Big Oil Superfund in Final Budget
NYPIRG REACTS TO ONE-HOUSE BUDGET BILLS – This week, both houses released their "one house" budget bills. Now lawmakers' attention will turn to negotiating differences. Here are key policy areas where NYPIRG has advocated and for which the Governor, the Senate, and the Assembly have established budget positions.
Reports & Features Archive