‘This isn’t the way to cut costs’: Brooklyn pols, union leaders blast MTA cashless payment plans

State Sen. Julia Salazar rallied with Transport Workers United Local 100 on Aug. 10.
Photo by Ben Verde

State elected officials joined the union for MTA workers on Tuesday for a Brooklyn rally to pressure the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to back down from their plan to end cash transactions at token booths throughout the system. 

Pols and union officials alike called the decision a bad move that will hurt New Yorkers and transit workers at a rally outside the Broadway Junction transit hub in East New York. 

“This isn’t right, this isn’t the way to cut costs,” said Bushwick state Senator Julia Salazar. “There is no justification for this, and it would be harmful to so many New Yorker’s.” 

Salazar made the case that the policy affects New Yorker’s who are ‘underbanked’ or have no credit history. Approximately 1 in 9 New Yorker’s do not have a bank account, according to a 2019 report. 

The MTA banned cash transactions at token booths at the beginning of the pandemic over concerns about spreading the virus through cash. Research has since shown that the coronavirus spreads through the air, not surfaces.

Even so, MTA honchos announced in June that they would permanently end cash transactions at token booths, while keeping a cash option at the systems MetroCard vending machines.

Representatives of Transport Workers United Local 100, which represents many New York City Transit employees, argue that the booths and the workers who work in them are vital, and play more roles in the station than just filling up MetroCards. 

“Where do you go when someone gets pushed on the tracks? When some crime is being committed? Or a person wants to know where they’ve got to go?” said TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano. “There’s nobody there!” 

Utano also called out the authority’s lack of consistency, noting suburban commuter railroads like the Long Island Rail Road and Metro North Railroad had cash transactions restored.

“What, are we different?” Utano said. “Are we different from the Long Island Rail Road and the Metro North?”

Station agent Shameia Colter said she deals with straphangers every day, many of whom use half-fare MetroCards, that are not tech-savvy enough to use MetroCard machines. Colter also said she has seen users of half-fare MetroCards have their cards eaten by machines, which often take weeks to replace. 

“MTA has done a pure disservice on the passengers,” Colter said. “It’s just ridiculous that we can’t do a job that you pay us — very well — to do.” 

The MTA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This story first appeared on amNewYork.