LOWER MANHATTAN (PIX11) — The families of some one million students at New York City public, private, and parochial schools have access to free transportation through their student MetroCards. New proposed legislation would expand the hours the cards would be valid and eliminate penalties for students using them outside of assigned hours or when school is not in session.

Still, it’s not yet clear if or when the terms for the cards would change, even though the writers of the proposed new laws — teens who use the MetroCards themselves — say that their research shows strong support for the changes. 

Currently, student MetroCards provide free transport on the subway and all city buses from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. The proposed legislation would expand that for free travel from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Wayne Li, a subway rider who graduated from high school last May, still has his student MetroCard and pulled it from his wallet to show it. He said that the three free trips it provided daily saved him and his family at least $500 per year in fares.

He said that students and their families need even more money saved.

“The longer [the eligible time] is, the better it is, especially for students working at night,” Li said as he waited for the R train in Lower Manhattan. “It takes them longer to get home. You have to actually pay the fare after hours,” he said.

PIX11 News encountered him in the subway after a rally in City Hall Park on Wednesday morning. It was organized by the Youth Council of the 74th State Assembly District. They’re high schoolers who advise State Assemblymember Harvey Epstein.

The Youth Council drafted the legislation, and Epstein joined with State Sen. John Liu to make the teens’ drafts into actual legislative bills. Titled A8244/S7491 and A8245/S749, they would allow more time for students to have free transit access and end punitive measures for student MetroCard violations. 

The proposed legislation would expand on measures taken in 2019, which ensured that all student MetroCards would be free of charge. Some had been half-fare before that. 

The organization Youth Alliance for Housing, founded by Emma Rehac, then a high school student, had been instrumental in that effort. Another YAH leader, Asha Avery, talked about the challenges in high school schedules that the new legislation is intended to address.

“We would have golf tournaments,” she said. “They would start at 7:00 in The Bronx, and Model U.N. conferences start at 6:00, 7:00, 8:00, and they are on weekends.”

The newly proposed legislation would promote the MetroCards being valid for use during those times or at least would eliminate penalties for those periods. 

Supporters say there’s no additional cost to the proposed changes.

For its part, the MTA, which issues MetroCards, said, through a spokesperson, “The MTA commissioned a blue ribbon Fareness panel to look at equity, education and logistics issues and anticipates its members will report any recommendations to active hours for student MetroCards.”

Assemblymember Epstein said that he and Sen. Liu had already spoken with the leadership of their respective houses of the legislature and felt good about the prospects for the proposals.

“With some edits to the bill[s] they’ve asked us to do,” Epstein said, “I think we’re in a very good position to pass these next year.”

He also pointed out that Schools Chancellor David Banks could now expand student MetroCard eligibility hours.

PIX11 asked the chancellor’s office for a response. A spokesperson there said that because they’re occupied with preparing for Thursday’s first day of school, they had no comment.