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LIRR's proposed policy changes would boost fares for some riders

A Long Island Rail Road train pulls into

A Long Island Rail Road train pulls into Hicksville station on July 17, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Several Long Island Rail Road fare policy changes proposed Monday would result in some customers paying more for their travels.

The changes include increasing the cost of a special ticket sold to Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade-goers by 43 percent, reducing the period during which some tickets are accepted, and eliminating a "courtesy" that allowed riders to get off a train before their final stop, and complete their trip the same day.

The LIRR, in its proposal, said the purpose of the changes is "to eliminate little used and outmoded exceptions to generally applicable policies," while also making those policies clearer to customers and employees, and consistent with sister MTA railroad Metro-North.

LIRR president Patrick Nowakowski said the cleaning up of unwritten rules will affect relatively few riders, and none of the LIRR's regular commuters. The proposal will go before the full MTA board Wednesday, although Nowakowski said he does not need approval to make the changes.

They include:

No longer allowing station "stopovers," whereby a passenger who notifies a conductor is allowed to get off at one station on the way to his final destination then re-board a different train later to finish his trip.

No longer honoring some tickets for as many as four hours before and four hours after they are officially valid. The LIRR currently allows commuters to use monthly tickets during the last four hours of the last day of the previous month, and also honors one-way tickets four hours into the day after they expire. "Tickets are good for 60 days after you buy them -- Well, except for the LIRR. They're good for 60 days and four hours," Nowakowski said. That would no longer be the case.

Increasing the price of a special ticket the LIRR sells at Penn Station after the Thanksgiving parade to $10 from $7. With a crush of people taking the LIRR after the parade, since 2003 the LIRR typically has sold a special ticket at a Penn Station track platform that charges a flat fee of $7 to customers. The LIRR says it sells about 1,500 such tickets each Thanksgiving.

The increase to $10 aims to charge the average cost of a one-way fare to zones 7 and 9 -- two common destinations.

"It also makes the ability to make change a lot easier," said Nowakowski, noting the ticket cost has not risen in five years.

In a statement, the LIRR Commuter Council said it opposes the changes, which "place the burden of greater efficiency directly on riders while increasing the revenue flowing to the Rail Road."

Council chairman Mark Epstein said that, rather than eliminating rule exceptions, the LIRR should train employees to apply them more efficiently. He added that the Thanksgiving hike is unjustifiable especially because, by the LIRR's own admission -- it will generate little revenue for the LIRR. "We cannot continue to tolerate the impact of changes at the LIRR falling solely on the backs of riders," Epstein said.

MTA board member Jonathan Ballan said that while the proposed changes seem reasonable, he urged the LIRR to monitor them closely because it should "keep costs as low as we can" for riders.


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