New York, NY – TWU Local 100, the union representing the city’s mass transit workers, is calling on the MTA to reverse automation policies that eliminate token booth clerks and make commuting more difficult for low income riders.
“What happens when you eliminate a token agent?” a frustrated TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano said outside the Broadway Junction subway-bus hub in East New York on Tuesday. “Where do you go when somebody gets pushed on the tracks, or some crime is committed, or a person needs to know where they gotta go? There’s nobody there. Not everybody has a credit card — not everybody has a bank account.”
State senators Julia Salazar, John Liu, Jabari Brisport, Robert Jackson, Brian Kavanagh, Zellnor Myrie, Gustavo Rivera, James Sanders, and Assemblymember Kenny Burgos all oppose the move to cashless transactions.
Rider advocacy groups including the Straphangers Campaign and the Brooklyn Center for the Independence of the Disabled are also vehemently opposed.
But this past June, MTA Chief Safety officer Pat Warren said the agency does not plan to resume cash transactions.
Failing to resume cash transactions “will have a devastating impact in our low-income communities throughout the city” because about 11% of city households don’t have bank accounts or credit cards, Salazar said. “There is an urgent need for the MTA to bring the acceptance of cash back to our booths, and it is evident that there is overwhelming support for the MTA to reverse their policy.”
Jessica De La Rosa, systems advocate for the Brooklyn Center, said, “Cash is still king for many New Yorkers, including many disabled New Yorkers. What the MTA forgets is that not everyone has a bank card or can use MetroCard Vending Machines easily, or at all, when they go out of service.” De La Rosa also noted the importance of having staffed booths so disabled riders can find help quickly without roaming a station looking for assistance.
On Twitter, Station Agent Shameia Carter remarked, “As a station agent, we deal with customers every morning, especially our disabled and senior citizens.” Carter said some need help because they are not tech savvy enough to use the MetroCard machines. She also noted that the machines sometimes malfunction and take riders’ money. She called out the fact that station agents are now no longer allowed to merge money onto MetroCards, making it even more difficult for low-income riders to get by.
“The MTA restores cash on the LIRR and the Metro North but they don’t restore cash in the city. What are we, different?,” Utano added. “We need to put the cash back in the booths and make everything equal, and give the customers here the proper service. I’m sure the federal government didn’t give $14 billion to the MTA to replace human beings with machines.”