Oceanside, Island Park residents blast Long Island Rail Road rate hike


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 rates.

Responding to a Herald Facebook inquiry, many residents expressed disappointment that the rates are set to increase.

“We’re being robbed, and we have no choice,” Oceanside resident Vaishali Mehta wrote. “They don’t even use the money to improve the trains, platforms or stations. Where does it go?”

Courtney Koehle called the hikes “frustrating,” noting that she often finds it difficult to get a seat during her commute, while Paul T. DiGiovanna said that the MTA is charging more, yet not doing enough to fix their on-time rates.

The exact price hike will depend on how far a commuter is traveling. A monthly ticket will go up by no more than $15 — anyone paying $460 or more permonth 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.

Commuters will see the increases when purchasing their May monthly tickets, according to the MTA. Base subway and New York City bus fares will remain $2.75, but monthly Metro-Cards will go up from $121 to $127, and weekly cards from $32 to $33. Drivers will also pay more at crossings; E-ZPass users pay an additional 36 cents at most tolls within the five boroughs.

The MTA, which faces a budget deficit of more than $500 million, anticipates an additional $336 million per year from the fare increases, though board members said that would not be enough to plug the budget gap. Another fare hike is expected in 2021.

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach, called for 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.

A spokesman for State Sen. John Brooks, a Democrat from Seaford, said the lawmaker was concerned about the increases, but had not provided a statement as the Herald went to press.

In an effort to prevent higher MTA fare hikes, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said they want 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 requires the State Legislature’s approval.

The State Senate’s Long Island delegation, though, criticized the plan because it would almost exclusively channel funding to the city’s subway system, and called for some money 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 would come into Manhattan via the RFK Bridge would be charged tolls twice — once on the bridge and again once south of 61st Street. The members asked for the oversight to be corrected.

The Long Island delegation consists of 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 of the LIRR’s functions — such as construction management, legal services and human resources — with the MTA’s other agencies.