Governor Cuomo’s full-throated support for Penn Station Access is a boon for commuters in the East Bronx. By opening up Metro-North stations along the New Haven Line, the program could dramatically improve mobility and job opportunities for residents of Co-op City, Morris Park, Parkchester, and Hunts Point. They would have direct and quicker access to midtown Manhattan as well as emerging job centers north of the Bronx.
Similarly, the MTA’s 2015-2019 Capital Program would resurrect the Elmhurst Station on the LIRR. This effort, too, could be a windfall for residents of a community that is experiencing a population surge. The LIRR could cut trip times by up to 40 minutes a day for round trips, compared to the local subway lines.
Commuter rail also offers greatly needed system resiliency and redundancy, a priority for an agency that still hasn’t fully recovered from the ravages of Hurricane Sandy. Or the more routine but equally as disruptive service delays and diversions that shut down whole subway lines or corridors.
But commuter rail access won’t truly equate to greater mobility without a more affordable fare structure for trips within the city limits. As the RPA recently noted in its report “Overlooked Boroughs,” the commuter rail fare is beyond the reach of many outer borough residents. On the LIRR, an Elmhurst resident would pay up to three times the base subway fare of $2.75 for a one-way ticket ($8.25 peak/$6.00 off-peak). These are based on the fares going into effect later in March.
To provide underserved communities better rapid transit options – at a much more affordable cost – the Move NY Fair Plan includes discounted fares ($6 peak/$4 off-peak) to New York City residents on LIRR and Metro-North seven days a week as well as a reduced Express Bus fare from $6.50 (as of March 22) to $5.50.
This strikes at the heart of not just mobility but economic justice and is in line with other metropolitan regions throughout the country that are implementing equitable fares for lower-income commuters, including Kings County, Washington, where a trip on the Orca Lift pass is $1.50. Mayor de Blasio is also a proponent of equitable rapid transit option for the city’s residents; he recently proposed five-borough ferry service with fares pegged to the MetroCard.
For such proposals to become reality, however, a great deal of political muscle is required. The MTA’s $32 billion Capital Program currently falls short by $15 billion. If left unfilled, such projects as completion of East Side Access, capacity improvements at Jamaica Station, and a Ronkonkoma double-track would be abandoned. On Monday MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast warned a Senate Committee that the gap, however, wouldn’t just impact major capital projects:
“It may not be that interesting to somebody if they don’t see a (power) substation or they don’t see cables going to a third rail, but if we don’t maintain that, and that’s a safety and reliability issue, then we could have a safety and reliability problem. And so we have to protect that core of $22 billion.”
This gap can be filled by the Move NY Fair Plan, but only if enacted by the Governor, Senate, and Assembly. Elected officials need to hear from their constituents that affordable rapid transit is a priority for all New Yorkers. Our transit system is well over 100 years old, and needs an infusion of funding to bring it into the 21st century. A more equitable fare structure is vital for improved mobility and economic opportunities within the outer boroughs. As always, making it happen requires a greater resolve by state and local leaders to solve the MTA’s funding woes once and for all. You can show your support for the Penn Access line and reduced Express Bus service fares by letting your voice be heard. Click here to send your elected officials an email.
Categories: Affordable Transit