Tens of thousands of Long Island train and bus riders will pay more to get around starting Sunday, as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's latest fare increase takes effect.
Although monthly Long Island Rail Road ticket-holders won’t see the increase until they buy their May passes, starting on Easter daily ticket-buyers will pay between 25 cents and $1.25 more for a one-way ticket. Weekly tickets will go up by as much as $4.50, and Ten-Trip tickets will rise by as much as $12.50.
The railroad said the majority of its riders will see fares rise by 3.96 percent or less. For Milind Sojwal, who rides the LIRR from Valley Stream to Penn Station about once a week for medical appointments, the increase will cost him $1 more per round trip — an amount he said was reasonable.
“I don’t go every day, so it’s not a big deal,” said Sojwal, as he waited for his train Thursday morning. “If I were to go in every day, that might be difficult.”
Because the Nassau Inter-County Express, or NICE Bus, accepts the MetroCard, Nassau bus riders also will feel the pinch from the cost of a 30-day unlimited ride MetroCard rising from $121 to $127, and from weekly cards increasing from $32 to $33. The fare change also will do away with the purchasing bonus that adds cash value for riders who put $5.50 or more on their MetroCard.
Allison Blanchette, executive director of Long Island Streets, a nonprofit organization that advocates for transportation alternatives, said the MetroCard rise could land particularly hard on low-income Nassau bus riders, for whom an extra $6 a month could represent one less meal. The increase also hurts efforts to encourage Long Islanders to get out of their cars and use public transit, Blanchette said.
“Unfortunately, Long Island bus riders are at the mercy of New York City’s subways and their failure to provide proper revenue sources,” Blanchette said. “It has ripple effects out here. And I feel like nobody’s gone to bat for the bus riders here.”
About 60 percent of NICE’s 85,000 daily riders use the MetroCard. NICE Chief Executive Officer Jack Khzouz said in a statement that the decision to change MetroCard fares was “made entirely by the MTA,” although NICE does stand to make an extra $300,000 annually from the adjustment. The cost of a single subway or bus ride remains unchanged at $2.75.
MTA Chairman Patrick Foye on Wednesday defended the MTA's practice of raising fares every other year by about 4 percent — an amount he noted is below the annual growth in the agency's operating costs and also below the inflation rate. The increase also comes as the MTA works to "restructure, reform and take costs out," Foye said.
According to MTA statistics, fare revenue covers only about 34 percent of the agency’s operating costs. The latest increase, approved by the MTA Board in February, is expected to yield an extra $269 million this year.
David Mack, Nassau’s representative on the MTA Board, called the increase “minuscule.”
“We need it,” said Mack, who noted the extra revenue is necessary to keep ahead of maintenance and renewal of the agency’s infrastructure. “Things every day go up . . . My goal is to keep it at a minimum so that it doesn’t burden our riders.”
For Hicksville commuter Stacey Ferrara, the increase means she will be paying $11 more for her monthly LIRR ticket beginning in May. At $308, her monthly ticket has more than doubled in price from when she began commuting on the LIRR 25 years ago.
“Considering it’s over $15 a day, I feel like we should be getting a lot more for the money spent,” Ferrara said. “At a minimum, I would expect a comfortable seat and reliable service. But too often, that’s not the case.”
BY THE NUMBERS
Zone 1 (Penn Station, Atlantic Terminal, Woodside)
Zone 3 (Jamaica, Rosedale, Queens Village, Little Neck)
Zone 4 (Lynbrook, Garden City, New Hyde Park, Great Neck)
Zone 7 (Long Beach, Wantagh, Farmingdale, Hicksville, Bay)
Zone 9 (Babylon, Deer Park, Huntington)
Zone 10 (Islip, Ronkonkoma, Port Jefferson)
Zone 12 (Speonk, Yaphank)
New: $461 (unchanged)
New: $147.50 (unchanged)
Zone 14 (Montauk, Greenport)
New: $500 (unchanged)
New: $160 (unchanged)
7-day unlimited ride
30-day unlimited ride
New fare policy also eliminates value bonus for cards with $5.50 or more on them.