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MTA OKs plans for cheaper fares, public forums on Island

LIRR president Phillip Eng on Wednesday announced plans for two customer forums to be held on Long Island in coming weeks, making good, he said, on his promise to listen to commuters’ concerns.

The “Customer Conversations,” as they’re being called, will provide LIRR riders opportunities for face-to-face dialogues with LIRR senior management, including Eng, who on Monday unveiled his “LIRR Forward” initiative to transform how the agency is operated.

“We are embarking on major change at the railroad to ensure our customers, who deserve nothing less than reliable, consistent and comfortable train service, get what they expect from us,” Eng said. “I want to make sure we keep the lines of communication open, both ways, to make sure we’re delivering on our commitments. And, as always, I want Long Islanders to know that their ideas and concerns are being listened to and action is being taken.”

The events will take place May 31 at Adelphi University in Garden City and June 7 at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma. Doors will open at 6 p.m. for the events, which will begin with opportunities for riders to meet with representatives from various railroad departments. A brief program will begin at 7 p.m., followed by a question-and-answer session.

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), who has pushed for top Long Island Rail Road leaders to come to Long Island and meet with customers, said Wednesday he hoped the forums will result in “a more dignified experience” for railroad riders.

“Commuters often complain that the LIRR is a faceless and remote agency that will not listen,” Kaminsky said. “These forums are a much-needed step to improving the dialogue between commuters and the MTA.”

Also Wednesday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board voted to approve a pilot program to offer discounted fares for customers traveling between some New York City stations and Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn.

The “Atlantic Ticket Field Study” aims to provide more choices for New York City residents living in so-called transit deserts, where bus and subway options may be limited or inconvenient. The new program — previously known as the “Freedom Ticket” — would provide discounts of up to more than 50 percent to riders commuting to and from Brooklyn and nine city stations: Queens Village, Hollis, St. Albans, Rosedale, Laurelton, Locust Manor, Jamaica, East New York and Nostrand Avenue.

MTA officials said the pilot program, which could begin as early as next month and last up to a year, will study the impact of lower fares on available capacity, operations and customer travel choices.

“Due to the lowered railroad fares, and potential time savings and convenience, some NYCT customers may switch modes from subway and bus to LIRR. Additionally, due to the introduction of a price differential between Penn Station and Atlantic Terminal, some existing LIRR customers may switch destinations,” the MTA said in its proposal. “The field study will provide insight into travel dynamics and inform future planning and operations.”

Although the proposal has raised concerns about the potential for extra crowding on trains, MTA Board member Andrew Albert, who represents the New York City Transit Riders Council, a subway rider advocacy group, said he expects it will “bring the MTA a lot of good will.”

“I think it’s going to give riders a lot of new options and I think it’s going to fill empty seats with revenue, which we can certainly use,” Albert said.

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