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MTA should restore original Freedom Ticket plan

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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s “Freedom Ticket” program is gearing up to become a broken promise that represents a classic bait-and-switch on Queens.

In a transit desert like Queens, residents greatly rely on buses and the Long Island Rail Road to get around.

The problem is that New York City buses - at $2.75 a ride - are notoriously unreliable and overburdened. The LIRR, while more predictable and time-efficient, is often cost-prohibitive at $10.25 for a one-way peak ticket between southeast Queens and Penn Station.

Enter: The Freedom Ticket.

First proposed in 2015 by the New York City Transit Riders Council, the plan calls for a discounted, one-way, $6.50 fare for about a half-hour ride between six Queens LIRR stations (Rosedale, Laurelton, Locust Manor, St. Albans, Hollis and Queens Village) and either Penn Station in Manhattan or Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn.

It’s a great idea, and holds much promise. Many - myself included - endorsed the plan, and were pleased when the MTA, with much fanfare, announced over a year ago that it was poised to implement a pilot version of the Freedom Ticket concept. It was meant to determine whether lowering the LIRR fare would not only increase LIRR ridership, but assist in alleviating overcrowded trains on the E and F subway lines.

Then recently, and rather quietly, the MTA began discussions to revise the plan by totally omitting Penn Station from the pilot.

Instead - and much to Queens’ dismay - they suggest that those who partake in the Freedom Ticket pilot from southeast Queens go only to the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn. From there, LIRR riders are forced to take the subway into Manhattan. By excluding the Manhattan option on the LIRR, as was originally proposed as the pilot, that’s easily an additional 30 to 45 minutes each way on top of the existing commute.

So what would this mean in terms of transportation options for the families of southeast Queens?

Say you’re going to Midtown from Rosedale during the morning rush hour. You could:

A) Spend 30-60 minutes driving by car and possibly pay a $5.76 toll each way (we won’t even discuss the parking once you get into Manhattan);

B) Cough up $10.25 for a 37-minute ride into Penn Station;

C) Take the Q5 or Q85 bus from virtually the first stop to the last stop at Parsons and Archer, then hop on the E train for a 60-90 minute commute into Penn Station, OR;

D) Get a $6.50 one-way Freedom Ticket for a 37-minute ride to the first stop in Brooklyn, then transfer to the subway for an additional 30-minute ride to Penn. That’s, of course, on a rare good day when the trains are actually running nearly on time.

It’s not an ideal choice for any commuter. “Freedom” becomes a misnomer.

Let’s be clear about the purpose of the Freedom Ticket. It’s to offer the LIRR to commuters as a more viable, attractive mass transit option that saves riders both time and money, which would in turn help alleviate congestion on the roads and in the subways

Instead, the MTA is trying to sell riders an inferior fare option that would add at least an hour to their round-trip daily travel in exchange for saving a few bucks. Who - if they had a choice - would even entertain that? Anyone’s time is worth more than that.

The Freedom Ticket is not about charity. Queens residents should not be expected to “take what we can get,” certainly not in a global city like New York. It is a pilot specifically to determine the effects a fairer LIRR price would have on the LIRR and the subway.

At a time when there is broad citywide agreement on the need to relieve congestion and prioritize public transportation, we must make every concerted effort to make transit options more equitable and much more viable.

Watering down the Freedom Ticket pilot program does nothing to achieve this goal. Eliminating Penn Station would simply create a suboptimal choice and set the pilot program up to fail.

The MTA Board may vote during its meeting this week on whether to begin the diluted Freedom Ticket pilot.

Together, with my colleagues in government from Queens, we are urging the MTA to restore the original Freedom Ticket plan by keeping Penn Station in the pilot. For the transit desert that is Queens, anything short of that would be mere lip service to change.

Melinda Katz

Queens Borough President

Posted 12:00 am, March 29, 2018
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Reader feedback

Theysuck from Queens says:
Let's face it, they DON'T CARE about the hard working tax payers in this country especially here in NY. If you live in the city or anywhere in long island, you WILL GET SCREWED. All of this is just due to greed on the politicians and mta part. The three dummies that run ny are completely incapable of thinking about anyone else but themselves and their buddies who they give top dollar jobs to. The mta pays way too much in overtime and to the big bosses. They purposely make commuting suck so that way they can let you suffer while they collect the big bucks from you. This is called job security.... If the mta didn't suck then they wouldnt get paid so much money. While they get paid, they are lying through their teeth saying they fixed the problem meanwhile they damn well know they created an even bigger problem but they dont care because as long as there is problems to be fixed, the more job security they have and the more the big bucks roll in.
March 29, 9:28 am
Pedro Valdez-Rivera says:
The Freedom Ticket is inevitable in the not too distant future.
March 31, 9:48 am
THINK from Queens says:
Well considering the conditions of the E train and that Jamaica Center Station filled with homeless and problematic people, just maybe the LIRR doen't want Jamaica's CRAP on board.
April 1, 11:29 am
The Truth from Queens says:
No offense to many of the hard working people who live in Jamaica, but let's face it and be REAL HONEST, the Jamaica community has way too many savages that just do not know how to behave properly (and that is just the local elected officials and church leaders like the Flakes), hence the HIGH CRIME and conditions in the community.

If it was a better community, then would not even be an issue, but let's face it, JAMAICA IS CRAP.
April 1, 11:41 am
Lenny from Bayside says:
Two thoughts:
1. Is the Boro Pres the Pres of all Queens or just South Queens? What about the Port Washington line riders in Queens?
2. Is the the Boro Pres so short of political influence and skill that she has to resort to letters to the editor to make her point to the powers that be? Perhaps she should step down and let a grown up do the work that needs to be done. Then as a private citizen she can write more letters.
April 4, 1:53 pm
THINK from Queens says:
YES, Lenny.

Lately, I notice many hack elected officials writing in letters. Public Advocate Tish James, a big do nothing just wrote one as well. With the kind of money that steal from tax payers for their over bloated salaries, one would think they would WORK, not write opinion letters in local rags.
April 6, 7:33 am
Kim from Valley Stream says:
I live in Valley stream, but about a 20 min walking distance from the Rosedale Station. I would surely consider the freedom ticket option only if the Pen station is an option although i do work on the other side of queens. Even woodside or Forest Hills would be an option. With the changes in Long Island City, it might also be a good idea for a the LIRR to have a stop in that area that is close to Queens plaza. That area is becoming so congested on the E line.
June 15, 1:04 pm

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