Braunstein battles MTA green fee

Michaela Kelly purchases a train ticket at the Bayside Long Island Rail Road station. Photo by Yinghao Luo
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A proposed “green fee” from the MTA has one northeast Queens lawmaker worried about the green in his constituents’ wallets.

In an effort to limit the amount of MetroCards being printed and distributed, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority made room in its 2013 budget to implement an additional $1 surcharge for riders purchasing new cards.

The surcharge, the MTA said, would hopefully encourage riders to refill and reuse their current cards instead.

But according to state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside), the option simply is not there for riders in the area he represents, like Douglaston, Little Neck, Bayside and Auburndale. Braunstein said without knowing it, regular northeast Queens riders could end up paying up to an additional $50 a year for the same commutes.

“Unlike MetroCard vending machines, Long Island Rail Road vending machines are incapable of refilling previously purchased cards,” Braunstein said. “The MTA justifies this surcharge by arguing that recycling MetroCards is good for the environment. Therefore, the MTA plan to promote refilling MetroCards by adding a $1 surcharge for new cards serves no purpose at these machines and is unfair to commuters in the outer boroughs.”

The MTA board initially introduced the surcharge in 2010 but never announced a date when it would officially take effect. An MTA spokesman said the change should become official on or around March 1 in tandem with a fare increase.

“We held public hearings on the fare increases in 2010,” the spokesman said. “It was never implemented, although now it looks like it can be.”

The MTA prints roughly 160 million MetroCards each year, costing the agency $9.5 million, a spokesman said. According to the MTA’s 2013 budget, the fee should bring in an estimated $20 million a year, with $18 million of it in new revenues and $2 million saved from printing fewer cards.

Braunstein wrote a letter to New York City Transit President Thomas Prendergast last year when the additional charge was announced, urging the MTA to reconsider its plans for the sake of riders in the outer boroughs without subway stations.

In his response, Prendergast said riders could purchase cards at off-site vendors or buy commuter-railroad combo cards to avoid the $1 surcharge. An MTA spokesman said riders could avoid the fees by either buying cards at subway stations or at out-of-market vendors such as convenience stores.

“Many of my constituents purchase their new MetroCards at the vending machines at LIRR stations because they are the only available outlets,” Braunstein said. “After I reached out to the MTA and informed them of this problem, the agency still refused to reconsider the proposed surcharge.”

Braunstein has also been one of several Queens lawmakers to applaud the MTA for restoring some of its service in the borough, including the Q79 bus.

But reviving old routes that were removed in 2010 still did not explain implementing new fees that not all riders could easily avoid, Braunstein said.

“While I am grateful that the MTA recently restored previously eliminated bus service, it still does not justify this surcharge, which disproportionately impacts commuters in northeast Queens,” Braunstein said. “I once again call on the MTA to reconsider this unjustified fare increase.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Posted 6:25 pm, August 8, 2012
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Reader feedback

MR. Joseph P. Wall from Bronx, New York says:
I would like to suggest that both the Bx50 AND the Q48 bus routes in Queens be combined to form one Select Bus route connecting CO-OP City, Pelham Bay Park, and even Ferry Point Park at the Hutchenson River Parkway Brush Avenue bus stop with places like Downtown Flushing Queens, City Field, home of the New York Mets, as well as LaGuardia Airport where the Q48 itself now terminates. The reason for this move is because I think that it actually makes a whole lot of sense to do. At the same time, you will be creating a one seat ride between the places that I have just mentioned and even augment and update the bus schedule now in place along the Q50 bus route between Pelham Bay Park and 39th Avenue-Downtown Flushing Queens. I understand that the MTA in the very near future, wants to create a brand new bus route connecting Fordham Plaza with LaGuardia Airport. At first, I thought that this new bus route would head east along Fordham Road-Pelham Parkway via the Bx12 bus route to Pelham Bay Park, then southeastward via the Q50 bus route into Throggs Neck and then over eather the Whitestone or Throggs Neck Bridge and Northern Bouavard to LaGuardia Airport. Howeaver, it is becoming more and more clearer that the MTA wants to route this new bus route north and southwards via 3rd Avenue over the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge into Queens and finally into LaGuardia Airport. Thus, the need to combine both the Q50 and the Q48 into LaGuardia Airport. Should the MTA take such action and combine both of these bus routes, then they can use some of those new New Flyer Three Door Style buses that are now being installed on certan bus routes in the Bronx. I do remember not too long ago when the Q50 was actually renumbered the QBX1 and then under the management of the old Queens Surface Corporation. Back then, I remember transferring at Main Street Flushing and somtimes I would end up riding a old style Jackey Gleason Omibus along the Q65 bus route into 164 Street Union Turnpike Jamacia, Queens. There was a reason why Jackey Gleason Omibuses were used on the Q65 as well as some other bus routes the old Queens Surface Transportation used to run;as far as I know, the Queens Surface Transportation did not have the financial wherewithal to purchase new buses until possibly around 1980 or so, when the Queens Surface Transportation Corporation was able to purchase some new RTS GM Style buses. Plus, I understand that at the tail end of 164th Street, there exists a very steep hill along 164th Street connecting 164th Street with Hillside Avenue and actually it seemed that those old Jackey Gleason Omibuses were more powerfull enough to make it up to the top of the hill at 164th Street. I just do not think that while making up a brand new bus route for the people living and visiting Fordham Plaza and connecting it with a place like LaGuardia Airport. When you are creating new SBS bus routes, you simply cannot make fish of one part of the Bronx that is the Mid-Bronx Fordham Plaza Area while conviently forgeting the North-East Bronx and leaving the Q50 go. I do not think that it is very fair at all for that to happen. In case that you do not know, there are many, many Senior Citizens as well as those people who are rapidly reaching Senior Citizen age living in Co-op City and Pelham Bay and I lived in Pelham Bay for most of my life and I can tell you for a fact that, we both need our bus transportation services to get around. It is not very, very fair indeed to have a bus schedule of a bus that runs every 15-20 miniutes on a week day between Pelham Bay Park and Down Town Main Street Flushing, Queens and every half hour or so on the weekends on the Q50. Rather, I would like to see a bus schedule on the Q5O weekdays of one bus every 10-12 miniutes between Pelham Bay Park and Downtown Flushing, Queens . Weekends every 12-15 miniutes especially if the MTA wishes to combine these two bus routes and there are home Mets games at City Field. Letting the Q50 stand as is, just might be DISCRIMITORY. And I hate to use that word but I think I must.
Nov. 23, 2012, 2:53 pm

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