Although Long Island Rail Road fares are higher after the recent fare hike, there are still ways to save money.
So — before you buy a full-price ticket for your 10-year-old, or hop on a Penn Station-bound train from western Nassau on a Saturday night — you should know that there is a good chance you are paying more than you need to for your trip.
Savvy commuters have discovered all kinds of ways to save on transit costs over the years. Here are a few tips compiled by Newsday transportation reporter Alfonso Castillo:
The Commuter Tax Benefit
This is a biggie. The federal Commuter Tax Benefit allows transit users, including LIRR customers, to pay for their commuting costs using up to $255 per month in pretaxed income. Many employers offer the benefit through programs like WageWorks. Employees who sign up may receive a stored value debit card that they can use to buy their LIRR monthly pass. On average, commuters who use the benefit cut their transit costs by 30 percent — more than making up for the MTA’s 4 percent fare hike last week. Find out if your employer offers the benefit. And if they don’t, urge them to sign up. It cuts their payroll taxes as well.
On Saturdays and Sundays, LIRR customers can travel between any two stations within New York City for just $4.25 using the “CityTicket” discounted fare. That means customers traveling from stations in western Nassau can cut the cost of their weekend trip considerably by driving to the nearest station in Queens. For example, Rosedale station is less than 2 miles from the Valley Stream station, but a CityTicket costs slightly less than half the price of an off-peak one-way fare from Valley Stream: $8.25.
Family Fare program
The LIRR’s “Family Fare” program allows up to four children between ages 5 and 11 traveling with adults to ride one-way for just $1. The Family Fare is in effect during off-peak hours and eastbound during evening peak hours, when the discount is even larger. So when buying tickets at a vending machine or from a ticket window, be sure to specify that you’re traveling with children and want the Family Fare. If your kids are younger than 5, they don’t need to pay at all.
Free ticket refunds after service suspensions
The LIRR typically charges a $10 “processing fee” for any unused ticket refund requests. But the railroad can waive the fee if a ticket could not be used because the LIRR declared a suspension of service on its website.
LIRR customers who also ride Nassau’s NICE Bus can purchase a Uniticket along with their monthly LIRR pass that provides discounted bus fares: $50.25 for a monthly bus ticket and $12.25 for a weekly one.
Hold on to that LIRR ticket
If you have an LIRR ticket with a MetroCard on the back, you may want to keep it even if there is no MetroCard value left. There is a $1 fee every time you buy a new MetroCard, so recharging the old one can save you money.