Starting in May, Long Island Rail Road commuters will pay more per ride, after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board voted on Feb. 27 to increase fares.
Responding to an inquiry on the Lynbrook-East Rockaway Herald Facebook page, many commuters said they were angry and disappointed with the decision.
“A fare increase is a disgrace as service gets worse and trains and platforms get dirtier and dirtier,” Jim Ryan said. “After watching the board approve the fare increase, it was obvious to me that there was no other option, no other plan to save the fare, and that the decisions had been made off camera without regard to the consumers’ needs.”
The exact price hike will depend on how far a commuter travels. A monthly ticket will go up by no more than $15 — anyone paying $460 or more per month will not see an increase — and weekly tickets will have a maximum increase of $5.75. The price of all other tickets, including one- and two-way rides, will increase by an average of 4 percent.
Brian Smith called the hike a “slap in the face to Lynbrook LIRR riders,” who for years have dealt with an aging station that was built in 1936 and has not been repaired in more than three decades.
“We have been promised over and over that our station will be repaired, as the conditions have deteriorated to the point that safety is an issue,” Smith said. “There have been multiple instances of concrete falling from above, which luckily has yet to cause injuries.”
Phase One of repairs is to begin in the spring, including platform and station repairs and improvements, replacement of both platform canopies, and installation of two new platform waiting rooms, among other improvements. An additional $6 million will fund concrete viaduct repairs, and $1.5 million will be allocated for structural support work. Phase Two will begin in 2020, and involve street-level improvements.
Commuters will see the fare increases when purchasing their May monthly tickets, according to the MTA, which is around the time that construction in Lynbrook should begin. Base subway and New York City bus fares will remain $2.75, but monthly MetroCards will go up from $121 to $127, and weekly cards from $32 to $33. Drivers will also pay more at crossings. E-ZPass users will pay an additional 36 cents at most tolls within the five boroughs.
The MTA, which faces a $500 million budget deficit, anticipates a revenue increase of $336 million per year because of the fare hikes, though board members said that would not be enough to plug the budget gap. Another fare increase is expected in 2021.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach, called on the MTA to put the new money to good use. “Commuters at least deserve to know that there is a plan and a commitment to turn things around before being asked to reach into their pockets once again,” Kaminsky said in an email.
To prevent future MTA fare hikes, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio are proposing to charge tolls for drivers who enter Midtown Manhattan’s central business district south of 61st Street. The tolls, along with proposed taxes on internet sales and legalized marijuana, could bring in billions of dollars for the MTA, the two said. Congestion pricing would require the State Legislature’s approval.
The State Senate’s Long Island delegation, though, criticized the plan, because it would channel funding almost exclusively to the city’s subway system, and called for a certain amount of funding to go to the LIRR. “As the representatives for millions of Long Island commuters, it is our responsibility to ensure that any congestion pricing plan is not funded on their backs without substantial benefit,” the group said in a statement. “We cannot support the proposal in its current state and are happy to meet with any party to address these concerns.”
The delegation also said that Long Island drivers who came into Manhattan via the RFK Bridge would be charged tolls twice — once on the bridge and again south of 61st Street. Members asked for the oversight to be corrected. The delegation comprises Kaminsky; Brooks; State Sen. Jim Gaughran, a Democrat from Northport; State Sen. Anna Kaplan, a Democrat from Great Neck; State Sen. Monica Martinez, a Democrat from Brentwood; and State Sen. Kevin Thomas, a Democrat from Levittown.
State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat from Westchester, said she supported the delegation’s requests. “Clearly, there is a need for a dedicated stream of revenue to fix the crumbling MTA, but any fix must benefit all parts of the MTA,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement.
Cuomo and de Blasio also proposed consolidating many LIRR functions — such as construction management, legal services and human resources — with the MTA’s other agencies.