The MTA is introducing a pilot fare discount program, starting...

The MTA is introducing a pilot fare discount program, starting in late February. The 20-Trip Ticket is rolling out on Feb. 25, and the OMNY promotion takes effect on Feb. 28. Credit: Howard Schnapp

In a bid to boost ridership to pre-pandemic levels, the MTA Board approved several fare discount plans Wednesday, including a 10% reduction in monthly LIRR tickets.

The fare reductions include 10% off monthly tickets, a new 20-Trip Ticket, and a flat $5 "City Ticket" fare for all weekday, off-peak trips within New York City. The 20-Trip Ticket would be good for 60 days and comes with a 20% discount off the price of 20 peak trips. The City Ticket must be purchased before boarding the train.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board also approved a fare-capping program for subway and bus riders who use the OMNY tap-and-go fare system. Under that plan, customers would receive free, unlimited rides for the week, after paying $33 in fares.

The 20-Trip Ticket is rolling out on Feb. 25, and the OMNY promotion takes effect Feb. 28. The other plans will begin March 1.

The promotions will remain in effect for four months under a pilot program and could then become permanent, get tweaked or get dropped.

The MTA, the LIRR’s parent organization, has struggled to bring back commuters who may no longer need to travel into work as frequently, if at all.

Before the vote, MTA Board member Sarah Meyer said the discounts would help lure back riders.

"We want to win our customers back because public transit is good for them. It’s also good for the region, and it’s good for the planet," said Meyer, also a chief customer officer for the MTA. "The fare pilots we are launching are more affordable, flexible and more fair than any fare products we’ve designed in a long time."

On March 1, the Long Island Rail Road is expected to return to rush-hour peak pricing that was suspended during the pandemic.

LIRR weekday ridership currently remains at 55% of pre-pandemic levels.

Janno Lieber, CEO and acting chairman of the MTA, said the agency’s projections show that revenue will still be down 10% to 15% in 2025, partly attributed to lower ridership. Fares account for roughly 38% of the MTA’s revenue stream.

"We are a $16 billion business that’s lost half its customers and we’re fighting to get them back," Lieber said during a news conference after the meeting. "We’re fighting to get them back because we’re hopefully financially rational and we know how important that is to the MTA’s long-term financial stability. But we’re also fighting to get them back because the MTA is the essence of the New York business model."

Lieber said he has asked elected officials to reassess the agency's role in the region.

"It’s time for reconsideration of long-term recurring revenue to treat the MTA a little bit more like an essential service so all the burden of the adjusted ridership scenario does not fall on the riders," he said after the board meeting.

There will be no fare increase this year, but there is a planned 4% fare increase later in 2022.

"Business logic says it doesn’t make sense to increase the price just as you’re trying to rebuild your customer base," Lieber said.

During the meeting, the board also approved a contract with Hitachi Rail to install a new switch and signal system that will improve service along the LIRR’s Main Line between Hicksville and Floral Park. The modern switching complex, called Queens Interlocking, also will help provide both east and westbound service at the LIRR’s Elmont/UBS Arena station. The station currently only has eastbound service.

"These new switches and signals will add redundancy, reliability and operational flexibility as we provide improved service for our customers while keeping an eye on future needs and changing ridership patterns," LIRR president Phillip Eng said in a news release.

Eng added that the project will be completed while over 200 trains will continue to run through the work zones daily.

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