By Patrick Donachie
Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) condemned MoveNY’s proposal to increase tolls on vehicles entering Manhattan over the East River, saying that it would place an outsized burden on neighborhoods with paltry public transit options.
“We think that it is unfair to communities like southeast Queens,” he said during a news conference at the St. Albans Long Island Railroad station Monday morning. “We deserve as much as any other community throughout New York.”
Miller, who was joined by elected officials and community leaders, decried the MTA’s treatment of southeast Queens, saying that many residents often had a commute to Manhattan that could take longer than an hour and a half. An LIRR trip from St. Albans to Penn Station, on the other hand, takes approximately 30 minutes.
Miller called for the MTA to equalize fares between commuter rails, subways and buses and enable riders to freely transfer from a bus or subway onto the LIRR. He also called on the MTA to expand express bus service from communities like southeastern Queens to Manhattan and Brooklyn.
“Imagine giving communities and families five to 10 hours a week again with their families,” he said. “You cannot quantify those benefits.”
MoveNY is a coalition of transit and environmental advocates as well as business and civic leaders who designed a “fair plan” which proposes that the state institute fares on the four East River bridges into Manhattan while diminishing fares on other city bridges. Supporters like Move NY Director Alex Mathiessen assert that the revenue that is generated could fund new transit options and transportation infrastructure improvements.
Mathiessen disputed Miller’s arguments and said MoveNY’s plan would alleviate the issues residents in transit deserts face. He said the plan would fund the creation of a freedom ticket transit users could purchase that would allow them to transfer between commuter rail and subways or buses. The plan would also expand the LIRR’s city ticket option, which offers reduced fares for LIRR users during weekends. The MoveNY proposal would expand the city ticket option to seven days a week for travelers using LIRR within New York City.
“The way we can most quickly and readily fill those transit gaps is extending ‘city ticket’ to seven days,” he said. “It creates a more affordable option.”
The St. Albans city ticket fare to Penn Station is $4.25, compared to a $7.25 off-peak and $10 peak fare.
At the conference, Miller also criticized illegal commuter vans that are often prominent in areas with sparse public transit options. The vans will transport residents living in outer areas to transit hubs like Jamaica Center for a low fee, but Miller cautioned that the drivers were often reckless. As Miller spoke, a van raced by the assembled group and ran a red light.
“Through the light,” Miller said as the van sped on. “This is precisely what we’re talking about.”
Tony Johnson, who lives a few blocks from the St. Albans station on 114th Road, said the cost of the LIRR ride into Manhattan made it an not a viable option.
“Because of the price, I have to take the bus and the train,” he said. “You’re talking about a two or a three-hour trip, and it could take 20 minutes.”
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona