Discount card for residents - Colton pushes plan to give locals a break

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The New York City Resident Discount Card — don’t leave home without it.

A Brooklyn lawmaker is floating an idea to give city residents subway and bus discounts as well as reduced fees for participating museums, other cultural institutions, restaurants, clothing stores and other businesses.

Bensonhurst Assemblymember William Colton unveiled the plan, dubbed AffordNYC, last week, saying it is akin to Mayor Bloomberg’s ambitious PlaNYC, which is a long-term sustainability plan for the city’s future.

“Innovation, coupled with the will to revolutionize the way government works for its residents, translates into helping New Yorkers grapple with the rising cost of just about everything and laying the groundwork for a more affordable city for our children and grandchild­ren,’ said Colton.

“I am fully aware that this bold vision and program will require a lot of work and cooperation between all relevant partners, but this is the least that we can do for the very people we swore an oath to when we entered into public office,” he added.

Colton said the discount transit fares would have the added benefits of fewer city residents taking cars to work, thus reducing traffic congestion and pollution.

Under the plan, the MTA would consider a two-tiered fare system whereby non-city residents would pay a different fare.

City residents will be issued cards in the form of a MetroCard, allowing them to use it everywhere they go around the city.

The city can also look west to Chicago, where straphangers track their expenses and transit history through the use of a “smart card.” The versatility of such a card translates into greater ownership of the city by its residents, said Colton.

“There was a recent report that mentioned New York City as a top destination for tourists to visit. Just think about it, a public school teacher from Brooklyn, or a nurse from Queens, should not have to pay the same fare to get to work each day that a tourist from Paris must pay to see a Broadway show,” said Colton.

Additionally, Colton pointed out that foreign tourists will not be discouraged from coming to the city because with the weak dollar abroad, they are raking in tremendous savings when they shop and spend in New York City.

It is crucial that government dig deep into its reserve of creativity and help New Yorkers cope with this difficult economy, while also achieving the environmental goals set forth in the mayor’s ambitious program PlaNYC, said Colton.

Colton said similar resident discount cards have been issued to several other municipalities including San Diego, Montreal, Anchorage and Jerusalem.

“AffordNYC would send a very powerful message to New York City residents that its government is providing them incentives in order to shop here, to spend here, and to utilize the most vast transportation system in the country,” said Colton. “This proposal amounts to a win-win for businesses here and for the pockets of city residents.”

Colton envisions government’s role in the resident discount card plan not as a mandated initiative, but more as a “voluntary partnership between various institutions of city life” that could also add to the business climate.

Colton sent letters about the idea to both Bloomberg and the MTA as well as to several Brooklyn businesses and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

“Now that we’ve gone public with it, we will reach out again to them [government and business officials], and develop a grassroots movement to get government to take on this initiative,” said Colton.

A Bloomberg spokesperson declined comment on the initiative.

Updated 3:44 pm, October 19, 2011
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