Elected officials are calling for the MTA to backtrack on a revision to the Freedom Ticket proposal, a reduced rate for LIRR commuters at select south Queens stations, to include both Atlantic Terminal and Penn Station as a final destination.
First proposed by the New York City Transit Riders Council in 2015, Freedom Ticket was designed to make the transit deserts of south Queens more accessible to the rest of the city by allowing residents to get tickets to key transfer hubs for $6.50, as opposed to the usual $10.25.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz addressed the issue in a joint letter to MTA Chairman Joe Lhota with seven other electeds calling for the state agency to bring Penn Station back into the proposal since the commute would be cost-prohibitive for many of their constituents and increase their travel time by a half hour if forced to transfer from Atlantic Terminal.
“As you know, we have been avid supporters of the ‘Freedom Ticket’ plan put forward by the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) in 2015,” the elected officials wrote in the joint letter, warning against the transfer that would lengthen commuting time. “Given this significant limitation, without the option of Penn Station, I expect few southeast Queens residents would use Freedom Tickets if the pilot program is implemented in its current state. The pilot is therefore being set up for failure, an outcome that is unacceptable, as it will not properly serve SEQ residents, allow for sufficient outreach in the community nor gauge their use of a long term program.”
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica), state Sens. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and James Sanders (D-South Ozone Park), Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman (D-Springfield Gardens), Assemblyman Clyde Vanel (D-Queens Village), Councilwoman Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica) and Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) also signed the letter.
The 37 percent discounted fare on the peak hour commuter train tickets could boost the local economy in south Queens, the officials said, but the pilot program, which only includes Atlantic Terminal, could be a burden on straphangers making their way into Manhattan by requiring them to transfer to the subway in Brooklyn.
The average commute time on the LIRR from Rosedale, Laurelton, Locust Manor, St. Albans, Hollis and Queens Village stations to Penn Station is roughly a half hour and the Freedom Ticket proposal includes a free transfer to subways and buses.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall
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