2016-11-30 / Front Page

Letter To The Editor

Fare Equalization Issues

To The Editor:
Regarding “Queens Chamber Holds Freedom Ticket Meeting” (Thomas Cogan, October 12) concerning the presentation made by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Permanent Citizens Advisory Council on the New York City Citizens Advisory Council report on NYC Councils “Commuter Rail Fare Equalization Proposal” – it still has significant unresolved financial and peak service capacity issues. It would allow NYC residents to pay the same $2.75 fare on the Long Island Rail Road or Metro North Rail Road as riding the New York City Transit Subway and sounded great on paper, but look at the details. It could also offer the same riders a free transfer from either the LIRR or Metro North to the NYC Transit Subway. The bill introduced by NYC Council Member Daneek Miller and supported by NYC Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, along with all 14 Queens Council members, clearly illustrated their lack of understanding concerning how transportation works. Do any NYC Council members and others promoting this bill have a MetroCard and ride any public transportation systems like constituents do on a daily basis?
Those NYC residents who already utilize either the LIRR, Metro North, MTA Bus or NYC Transit Express Bus are aware the cost is more than either the bus or subway. If you agree and follow the logic of this bill, there should be a reduction in the cost of any NYCT or MTA Express Bus Service from $6.50 to $2.75 as well. There are already almost 100,000 NYC residents who travel weekdays to and from work, paying extra to ride the LIRR, Metro-North, MTA Express Bus, NYC Transit Express Bus or private ferry. All understand that they are paying for a premium service.

Existing scheduled LIRR trains serving Little Neck, Douglaston, Bayside, Auburdale, Broadway and Murray Hill on the Port Washington branch might be able to accommodate one to two thousand new riders if they are spread out over the 6AM to 10 AM morning rush and 4PM to 8 PM evening rush hours trains. Few will have seats. Any additional riders beyond that would have to stand if they are lucky enough to be able to board. There are few if any available open seats west of Flushing. Don’t forget that several hundred to a thousand more customers may be attempting to board when the new Elmhurst Queens LIRR Station opens in 2018. Can you even imagine the crowds, if only several thousand of the daily 66,000 NYC Transit subway riders who utilize the Flushing Main Street 7 station decide to become regular daily LIRR customers? What if you add potentially even more new riders attempting to board a LIRR train at Woodside? There is no way existing Port Washington branch rush hour service could accommodate 5,000 to potentially 10,000 and more new Queens customers without adding more trains. Part of the problem is the cost of $2 million or more per car or $20 million per 10-car train set. Between design, engineering, procurement, construction, and delivery, in addition to inspection and acceptance, it can easily take five years before the LIRR can acquire additional rolling stock. The LIRR also needs additional maintenance and storage capacity for any significant LIRR fleet expansion.
We are all already aware what happens due to equipment malfunction, inclement weather, switching or crossing gate problems on the LIRR. Don’t forget the increase in the frequency of major service disruptions due to storm and signal problems in the East River Tunnels. These problems periodically also occur between the Tunnel Portals and Harold Interlockings west of the Woodside Station. This results in canceled and combined trains. People are packed standing in the aisles. There is no way for conductors to check tickets. Train trips take longer as more time is needed at each Queens station for riders to enter and exit. At Penn Station, it could take five to ten minutes before everyone can depart the train. Can you imagine the chaos with thousands of additional daily riders?

There is no room to run additional trains in or out of Penn Station during either a.m. or p.m. rush hours via the East River tunnels with connections to Long Island. Three of four tunnels running inbound during a.m. and outbound p.m. rush hours have very tight spacing between trains. One tunnel is shared by the LIRR, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak for reverse train movements with equally tight spacing during rush hours. There is no platform capacity at Penn Station to accommodate any additional trains during rush hour. Penn Station is currently operating at 100 percent capacity during both a.m. and p.m. rush hours. If one of the four tunnels is temporarily out of service, the result is numerous delays and cancellation of trains.

Nothing will change until LIRR Eastside Access to Grand Central Terminal is open for revenue service. The anticipated revenue service date has slipped on numerous occasions from originally 2011. The MTA “party line” schedule claim (based upon the most recent project recovery which has also changed numerous times during the life of the project) calls for a December 2023 opening day. Based upon previous history of delays and recovery schedules adding up to 12 years worth of broken promises, don’t be surprised if first day of revenue service occurs in 2024 or later.

The bill also wants to offer new NYC LIRR and MNRR riders a free transfer to the NYC Transit Subway. Obviously these NYC Councilmembers have never traveled through either Grand Central Terminal or Penn Station during rush hours. Both the eastside 4, 5 and 6 subway lines or west side 1, 2 and 3 subway lines are already operating at or above capacity. Many must wait for a second subway train to arrive before being able to board. The same is true to a lesser extent for Atlantic Avenue Brooklyn Station travelers attempting to access subway lines. There is little room for new riders who might want to take advantage of a free commuter rail to subway transfer. If offered, there are thousands of NYC residents already riding the LIRR and Metro-North who would also want the same free transfer.

The $70 million dollar estimated cost for a $2.75 fare for all trips for residents within NYC riding on both the LIRR and Metro-North was just a guess. It was not based upon any concrete data. Nobody knows if the cost could easily be $100 to $200 million or even more in direct farebox revenue loses for the LIRR, Metro-North and NYC Transit. The $27 billion MTA 2015 - 2019 Five Year Capital Program includes no funding to implement this proposal. The MTA has no surplus operating dollars available to cover these costs. The $82 billion NYC municipal budget for the period July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 likewise includes no funding. As a result, NYC two-fare zone riders will not have a “Freedom Ticket” to ride for the forseeable future.
Larry Penner
Great Neck

Return to top

Copyright 1999-2018 The Service Advertising Group, Inc. All rights reserved.