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LIRR policy changes may mean higher fares for LIers

A Long Island Rail Road conductor holds the

A Long Island Rail Road conductor holds the doors as MTA passengers exit an eastbound train at the Hicksville LIRR station. (July 19, 2010) Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

The time and direction of your Long Island Rail Road trip may cost you considerably more money next year, as the MTA is considering major changes to the LIRR's long standing policies on peak travel scheduling, transit sources said Monday.

As part of a plan to raise overall fare revenue by 7.5 percent in January 2011, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials have floated the idea of extending peak travel times in the morning. In addition to a general ticket fare hike, they are also considering charging peak fares to "reverse commuters" who travel eastbound in the mornings and westbound in the evenings.

Peak fares can cost up to 44 percent more than off-peak fares. The last time the LIRR altered its peak schedule was in 1995, when it extended its evening peak period by an hour, to 8 p.m.

MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan declined to comment on any specific proposals, but said details of proposed fare hikes would be released next week. Public hearings would be held before the increases take effect.

MTA board member Mitchell Pally said the goal is to have "the least number of people subsidize the most number of people." Fewer than 3 percent of the LIRR's daily commuters are reverse commuters, and 22.5 million of the LIRR's annual 83 million customers travel during off-peak hours.

Pally said he also is proposing discounted fares for people traveling within Nassau and Suffolk counties to promote intra-Island commuting.

William Henderson, director of the MTA's Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee, said while painful for some, the plan to raise money by extending peak scheduling is as fair as any, and reflects the growing number of people work flexible hours and travel in different directions.

"The peak has changed. People's travel patterns definitely have changed over the years," Henderson said.

Patrick Foye, the MTA's board member from Nassau, said it is important that the MTA tighten its belt as much as possible before proposing any fare increase.

"That's true at any time, but especially so in today's economy, where too many Nassau commuters are living on the edge," Foye said.

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