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NEW NEW YORK: Gov, Mayor Endorse $5 Fare For Every Intra-City Commuter Rail Trip

12:01 AM EST on December 15, 2022

So much for an easy transfer from here to the subway. Photo: MTA

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All aboard for cheaper fares.

Gov. Hochul and Mayor Adams announced on Wednesday that they support an expansion of the City Ticket from its current off-peak and weekend $5 ride on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North to any time of any day.

The announcement came in the new report, Making New York Work For Everyone, a set of proposals made by the mayor and governor's New New York panel of big time labor, business and urbanist interests that was tasked with creating a fabulous "new" New York City for a post-pandemic world.

In the report, the panelists noted that in addition to the existing commuter rail infrastructure, the MTA is about to begin LIRR service to Grand Central and Metro-North will soon bring its trains into Penn Station with four new stations in the East Bronx. In order to give city residents the best possible opportunity to use the new infrastructure, the report said, the  full-time discounted commuter rail service is essential.

SIDEBAR: 'New New York' also calls for a Director of the Public Realm

When the MTA begins treating LIRR and Metro-North commuter rail service inside the city as something more like regional rail is still unclear, since the report doesn't list an a starting date for the recommendation. But proponents of more affordable commuter rail service inside the city were still buoyed by the panel's recommendation, which they took as an endorsement of the policy by Hochul and Adams.

"The cat is out of the bag, the gifts are out of the box," said Lisa Daglian, the executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA. "It can't go back in, it's out there. The governor said it, the mayor said it. This was basically a precursor to the State of the State address, the State of the City address, and the budget process. So that's a good sign."

Daglian and the PCAC are still pushing for the governor and the MTA to go even further than a $5 City Ticket than can be used at any time, in the form of what the organization calls the Freedom Ticket, which offers a $5 commuter rail fare and a free transfer to the bus or subway. Even with details that still need to be worked out, Daglian said that the panel's recommendation was a next step towards a fully operational Freedom Ticket.

The recommendation also comes shortly after the MTA pooh-poohed a similar set of policy proposals from the Regional Plan Association that would lower intra-city LIRR and Metro-North fares to $2.75 and include a free bus or subway transfer, while also increasing service that runs through commuter rail stations inside the city. Not wanting to cross the boss, the transit agency didn't turn up its nose at the Hochul/Adams proposal, and instead focused on the report's promise of a new funding stream for the cash-strapped agency.

In addition to the New New York panel, "we are hearing from legislators who are stepping up with a range of ideas to address New York’s mass transit funding crisis," said MTA spokesman John McCarthy. "We look forward to working with all our partners in Albany, City Hall, and Washington over the next few months to identify new recurring revenues so we can deliver the essential mass transit services that are the economic and equity engine of the region."

The MTA is staring over the edge of a well-documented fiscal cliff, thanks to plummeting ridership during the pandemic — and a slow return of customers, whose fares fund most of the basic operation of the subway. On Wednesday, two state lawmakers threw out their first marker for a substantial increase in the MTA budget, plus a plan for free bus service.

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