Transit workers, advocates push back against MTA’s possible cashless system


CYPRESS HILLS, Brooklyn — Your cash will no longer be good on New York City buses or subways if the MTA implements a policy it has toyed with for years – a cashless system.

Transit workers and advocates gathered outside the Broadway Junction subway station in Cypress Hills on Tuesday to push back against the idea saying it discriminates against disabled and poor people. They also say that a human is needed inside the token booth to help with issues that arise.

While the MTA is trying to get riders using transit again, advocates argue a cashless system will make that more difficult.

State Sen. Robert Jackson stood at the podium and took out a $1 bill.  

“I pull out this dollar bill and you know what it says? ‘This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private,” Jackson said.

PIX11 News witnessed multiple riders experiencing problems with the machines.  

“The machine’s not accepting cash, only credit cards,” one rider said.

When the machines are down the booth attendants are there as back up, but Transit Workers Union Local 100 President Tony Utano questions what riders will do if the transit authority implements the policy and eliminates both cash and booth attendants.

“Where do you go when somebody gets pushed on the tracks or some crime is being committed or a person needs to know where they need to go?” Utano asked. “There’s nobody there!”

Sen. Julia Salazar says the potential move is a financial one.

“The MTA’s decision is partly motivated by trying to cut down on labor costs,” Salazar said.

MTA Spokesperson Tim Minton tells PIX11 in a statement:

“No decision has been made about the return of cash transactions at station booths. Our customers should know that we continue to accept cash at all 472 stations throughout the subway system at 1,688 MetroCard Vending Machines, at MetroCard vans that travel across the city, and hundreds of convenience stores and other retail locations throughout the city. As we have said repeatedly, the MTA is evaluating options and communicating with our labor partners to determine the best outcome for our customers.”

Advocates claim it discriminates against poor people.

According to 2019 data by the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, 11.2 percent of New York City households are unbanked meaning they don’t have a bank account.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation says 22 percent of New York City residents don’t have credit history.

Jessica De La Rosa is disabled and has countless stories on why a cashless system puts her at a disadvantage.

“I have the Reduced Fare card and the autogate ate it and nobody was at the booth,” De La Rosa said. “There was a construction guy who didn’t have the key to open the thing, so I had to wait six weeks to get my Reduced Fare card back.”

Transit workers say they should be heard because they got up every day as essential workers while the people at the top stayed home.

“They keep changing leadership all the time, but we’re still here,” Utano said. “We know how to do this job. Get the cash back in the booth!” 

Advocates also say they didn’t fight for the federal government to award $14 billion to the MTA to make it harder for riders to not take public transportation.

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