Facebook Twitter

Why I Need My Metrocard

Losing our Metrocards to budget cuts would prevent students from so many low-income and middle-income families from grasping success.

My mother is a single parent. She is putting two kids through college — one at Howard University and the other at St. John’s in Queens — and she still has to keep up with her mortgage payments and other bills. Her job gives her great benefits and a good salary. But it is still really hard and I see her struggle every day to provide for her family and keep us together especially lately in this economic downturn. The last thing she needs on her plate is the question, “How am I going to get transportation to and from school for my son?” Providing a Metrocard for me to get to school would be another bill and another burden on her back.

I wouldn’t even attend the great school I go to, Francis Lewis High School in Queens, if I hadn’t known I would be able to get there for free. But my mom knew I couldn’t go to the schools in my neighborhood. Now those schools are among 19 that the mayor and chancellor are closing. Next year, if I don’t get a free Metrocard, it would be hard for me to stay enrolled at Francis Lewis for my senior year. And all the students who might have gone to the schools that are closing will have to spend their own money to get to schools like mine, which are already overcrowded.

And it’s not just about getting to and from school for me. I do a lot of extracurricular activities all over the city. I work with a group in Manhattan called The Youth Justice Board, I intern with the Public Advocate’s office, and I volunteer all around the city. Right now my school Metrocard allows me to go to one additional location every day, free of charge. If I didn’t have this Metrocard, I would have to pay for transportation to school, which is two buses, then from school to work, which is a bus and then a train, and then from Manhattan back home, again a train and then a bus. This would be $2.25 and a transfer three times a day, or $7.75 a day. I would spend approximately $154 a month and $1,395 a year, just for my transportation on school days.

I am able to work to enhance my experiences, but I have friends who really have to work not for themselves but for their families. Without a free Metrocard, they would have to spend their pay on getting themselves to school. This cut could almost force them not to go to school at all.

New York students, parents, teachers and citizens know we are in a time when cuts need to be made, but educational cuts are not the way to go. They are never the way to go. For students right now, it feels like the MTA, governor, and mayor are working together to constrict our opportunities.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.