LIRR council seeks voting power on MTA board

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The Long Island Rail Road's watchdog group wants the MTA to give riders a vote on issues that affect them, including how much a train ride will cost.

Following the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's unanimous vote Wednesday to raise fares for the fourth time in five years, the LIRR Commuter Council has asked for a board member to represent riders.

The MTA board includes representatives from the LIRR Commuter Council, as well as from riders' councils for Metro-North Railroad and New York City Transit, but none are allowed to vote at meetings.

Under the council's proposal, a single voting-member board seat would rotate among the three riders' groups.

"If you have a vote, you have a voice," said LIRR Commuter Council chairman Mark Epstein. "The end result should be that eight and a half million New Yorkers who use the system, who pay the fares, that are affected by the cuts, would have a chance to vote on their futures."

MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said the makeup of the board is controlled by the State Legislature through the public authorities law.

"We respect what the legislature sees fit to call for," Donovan said.

Epstein said his group next month will begin lobbying legislators for the change.

Making the council's call more urgent is that it's been more than a year since the MTA board had a member from Nassau County, Epstein said.

Former Nassau representative Patrick Foye left the board in December 2011 to become the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Brian Nevin, spokesman for Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, said Mangano has sent Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo a list of candidates to fill the seat, but none have been selected.

Cuomo's office did not respond to a request for comment.

Mitchell Pally of Stony Brook is the sole board member from Long Island.

He cast one of 13 votes Wednesday approving an MTA plan to increase fare revenue by 7 percent beginning in March.

On the LIRR, ticket prices will go up by as much as 15 percent.

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