‘Freedom Ticket’ would allow free transfers between rail, subway and bus

Key to the City
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Billie Grace Ward

Many southeast Queens residents know all too well that they have some of the longest work commutes in the city. The New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) is proposing a new fare they say would slash costs and time spent traveling to and from work.

The council proposed last week creating a “Freedom Ticket” allowing unlimited subway, bus and Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) or Metro-North Railroad trips within the five boroughs for $215 a month. Some Queens commuters who rely on a combination of the LIRR and MTA subways and buses to get around currently fork over $218 for a monthly LIRR pass on top of $116.50 for a monthly MetroCard.

The NYCTRC, the citizens advisory committee to the MTA, released a report last Wednesday advocating for the new fare. Commutes for people living in transportation deserts like southeast Queens may stretch up to 15 hours per week, the report said.

The cheapest travel options include a bus or dollar van ride to a subway, but a $10 LIRR ride — which is out of reach for many residents in the area — can shave off considerable time from a rider’s commute.

Dollar vans, a popular option for people living in transportation deserts such as southeast Queens, have been a topic of controversy. Many operate illegally and there have been several van-related shootings and car chases within the last year. Councilmen I. Daneek Miller and Rory Lancman introduced the Commuter Van Reform Act in July to raise fines for illegally operating vans.

A trip from Rosedale to Manhattan with the LIRR takes 40 minutes, while taking a bus or dollar van and then the subway takes 86 minutes, the report found. The report also argues that the Freedom Ticket would ease congestion on the heavily used E, J and Z lines.

During a.m. peak hours, 34 percent of seats on the LIRR between southeast Queens and Jamaica are empty and 23 percent of seats between Jamaica and Penn Station are not used. The cheaper fair would encourage riders to utilize the commuter rail, according to the report.

A one-way Freedom Ticket  would cost $6.50 — more than a bus or subway ticket but less than a one-way LIRR ticket — and cut travel time.

Courtesy NYCTRC
Courtesy NYCTRC

The group, chaired by Andrew Albert, suggests implementing the Freedom Ticket in phases starting in 2017. The first phase would allow southeast Queens riders to purchase the ticket. By 2019, the fare would be expanded to areas where Metro-North and LIRR stations are 0.8 miles or farther from the nearest subway station. The Freedom Ticket would be implemented citywide by 2021.

The MTA recently struck down an idea to create a free shuttle bus to LaGuardia Airport. A spokesperson for the MTA said the agency would “consider” implementing the Freedom Ticket.

“It’s an interesting proposal to alleviate the concerns of some of our customers, though it would certainly carry a financial impact for the MTA as well, so we’ll consider it next year as we determine how to structure the next in our series of modest fare increases equivalent to the rate of inflation,” spokesman Kevin Ortiz said.

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