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$7 Metro-North, LIRR Peak Fare Coming in August as MTA Finally Kills Atlantic Ticket

A little-loved but useful ticket discount was tossed overboard when the MTA voted on its fare hikes and other changes on Wednesday.

12:01 AM EDT on July 20, 2023

The MTA has officially killed its Atlantic Ticket program in favor of a citywide $7 peak fare for in-city commuter rail trips. Photo: Marc A. Hermann/MTA

It's the end of the line for one MTA ticket deal — and a new beginning for another.

Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North trips that both start and end in New York City will be just $7 at peak hours beginning in late August, after the MTA board approved the "City Ticket" program's expansion as part of its first subway fare hike in four years.

The LIRR discount known as the Atlantic Ticket, meanwhile — which gives riders the option of a $5-per-trip weekly package for rides between Atlantic Terminal and southeast Queens, with an attached free transfer to the bus or subway — is going to the great pilot program junkyard in the sky.

Atlantic Ticket had become redundant, MTA officials said in May, thanks to the expansion of a second commuter rail discount known as City Ticket, which provides for $5 off-peak and $7 peak fares for commuter rail trips within New York City limits. The weekly LIRR deal was never meant to be permanent, and also wasn't a big seller with just 723 sold between February 2022 and May 2022, the most recent publicly available sales data.

A $5 City Ticket has been available on off-peak Metro-North and LIRR trains since last year. On Wednesday MTA CEO Janno Lieber suggested the expansion of the lower-cost intra-city commuter rail ticket followed in the spirit of the Atlantic Ticket.

"We were experimenting with a different version of [City Ticket] for a while, that's where the Atlantic Ticket is," said Lieber. "So it was an experiment. Now we're blowing it out to a whole city in the peak as well as the off peak."

But the choice to move on from the Atlantic Ticket without figuring out how to attach a free transfer to the City Ticket struck some critics on the MTA board as moving off a useful program too quickly.

"Atlantic Ticket being eliminated is disappointing," said Midori Valdivia Espino, an appointee of Mayor Adams. "I would love for an exploration what a City Ticket looks like that incorporates the free transfer from it."

While the City Ticket and Atlantic Ticket offered similar deals, the MTA and state and city leaders have seemed to favor the City Ticket over its more localized cousin. The Atlantic Ticket was also a relative newcomer to the MTA's many different ticket offerings, having been introduced in 2018 versus the City Ticket which began as a weekend-only option back in 2004.

The 2022 "New" New York Panel put together by Adams and Gov. Hochul recommended expanding the City Ticket to offer a peak option but said nothing about the Atlantic Ticket, and the MTA never offered the discount option on the agency's e-Tix app, which supporters of the ticket said doomed it from the start.

"Many empty seats were filled by users of Atlantic Ticket," said Andrew Albert, a rider representative member of the MTA Board. "But unfortunately, it was not available on the e-Tix app, and some of the time it was made available was during a pandemic. Without those two things, it likely would have doubled ridership."

Transit advocates want the MTA to allow New Yorkers in areas like the Bronx, southeast Queens, and northeast Queens to take full advantage of the commuter rail systems where they live — tickets for which have historically been significantly more expensive that the bus or subway.

"We have to have more ways to take better advantage of trains that run through people's backyards," said Lisa Daglian, the executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA.

The PCAC has spent years advocating for a citywide version of Atlantic Ticket that the organization has called a Freedom Ticket, which would allow riders to buy a weekly ticket good for intracity commuter rail travel with an attached MetroCard. A 24/7 City Ticket is halfway to that goal, but Daglian said she's still pushing for the other half.

"It doesn't have to be introduced tomorrow, but we want to explore the feasibility of how a free transfer can be rolled into a City Ticket structure," she said.

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