Some Long Island Rail Road commuters will pay $15 more for their monthly pass beginning in March under the MTA’s latest fare and toll increase plan revealed Wednesday.
Although some tickets will go up by as much as 6 percent, the vast majority of the LIRR’s 88 million annual riders — about 83 percent — will see increases of 4 percent or less.
Increases in monthly ticket costs will be capped at $15, weekly tickets will not go up by more than $6.75 for the longest trips, and increases on one-way tickets will not exceed 50 cents, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials said.
The proposal also raises the cost of a monthly MetroCard by $5.50 and the cost of crossing most MTA bridges and tunnels by 50 cents.
The announcement of another MTA fare hike — its sixth since 2008 — just hours after a broken rail in an East River tunnels on Wednesday morning caused the latest LIRR rush- hour service disruption was particularly upsetting for many commuters reacting to the hikes on social media. Nassau and Suffolk residents already pay some of the highest commuting costs in the nation, with monthly tickets ranging from $252 to $485.
“We’ve yet to see a fare hike where we’ve gotten something worth the fare hike,” said LIRR Commuter Council chairman Mark Epstein, who noted that, in addition to unplanned service disruptions, scheduled track work has reduced weekend service on several lines in recent months. “Right now, we’re being asked to pay more for less.”
MTA officials emphasized that the proposed fare increases are the lowest since the agency adopted a schedule of biennial fare increases in 2009. Better-than-expected revenues in 2016 allowed the MTA to minimize the amount of the proposed hikes, while also proposing new investments in service, including round-the-clock staffing of the MTA’s social media team.
While the increase may be relatively low compared to recent increases, LIRR commuter George Romaka said, “It’s still a fare hike.”
“They’re not doing me any favors raising the fare,” said Romaka, 58, of Islip, who works as a book developer in Manhattan.
MTA chief financial officer Robert Foran said the “relentless pursuit of cost savings,” expected to reach about $2 billion annually by 2020, have put the agency on better financial footing. But recurring, predictable fare hikes remain key to the MTA’s financial future, officials said.
“We’re going to continue to . . . [cut costs] to keep pressures on fares and tolls as low as possible,” Foran said.
The MTA will hold public hearings to gather input on the fare plan before voting on whether to approve it next month. The lone Long Island public hearing is scheduled on Dec. 7 at 5 p.m. at the Hilton Long Island/Huntington in Melville.
At the hearings, riders will be able to sound off on two proposals for increasing the cost of an MTA bus and subway ride. Under one plan, the MTA’s base fare — the cost of a single ride — would remain unchanged at $2.75, but the bonus, or amount credited toward a future fare purchase, would be reduced to 5 percent from the current 11 percent.
Under another plan, the base fare would climb to $3 — an increase of 9.1 percent — and the bonus would increase to 16 percent. While generally supporting the fare plan, some MTA Board members lamented the missed opportunity to make bigger changes to the agency’s fare structure to address changing ridership demands and perceived transit inequities among some communities.
Among the changes discussed in recent years, but not enacted in the new fare plan, are the creation of a so-called “freedom ticket” that would provide discounted LIRR fares for residents in communities underserved by the MTA, including in Southeast Queens; LIRR discounts for college and university students; and discounted fares for weekend travel within Long Island — similar to the LIRR’s existing “City Ticket” for weekend travel within New York City.
“We need to find ways to encourage people to use the train to get from one spot on the Island to another spot on the Island,” MTA Board member Mitchell Pally said. “We don’t do that on Long Island. To the largest degree, almost everybody who gets on a train ends up at Penn Station.”
MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast said capacity limits and weekend service levels made the discount proposals unfeasible this time around, but added that the ideas all “have merit” and will be studied further. “We want to make informed decisions,” Prendergast said.
Meanwhile, the LIRR repaired the broken rail in time to restore full service for the evening rush. In all, 51 westbound trains were delayed six minutes or more during the morning commute, including six canceled trains at Jamaica, spokesman Salvatore Arena said.
With Laura Blasey
MTA’s proposed fare hike
Monthly tickets will increase by $15 or less.
Weekly tickets will increase by $6.75 or less.
One-way tickets will increase by 50 cents or less.
*Actual ticket cost depends on distance traveled.
Buses and subways:
Unlimited ride 30-day MetroCards will increase to $121 from $116.50.
7-day MetroCard will increase to $32 from $31.
Cost of single ride to be determined. One option would keep it at $2.75, but reduce the built-in bonus toward a future purchase. Another would raise it to $3, but increase the bonus.
Bridges and tunnels:
Tolls for major crossings (RFK, Whitestone, Throgs Neck bridges, Carey, Midtown tunnels) will increase to $8.50 from $8 for cash customers, to $5.76 from $5.54 for E-ZPass customers.