Affordable Transit

A Fair Fare in East New York

East New York. The last great big nugget of the Eastern frontier? Or an all-but-forgotten, poverty-stricken neighborhood?

A little bit of both, if you’ve followed the headlines in the last 12 months, and Borough President Eric Adams is taking note by calling on fare relief for residents who find themselves in an unfair predicament.

With Mayor de Blasio’s push to bring new, affordable housing to East New York, a gold rush of real estate speculators and buyers have swooped in, selling and purchasing homes for double and sometimes triple their value just a year earlier. For folks with access to millions of dollars, either through credit or private equity, it’s the latest boom in the never-ending wonders of New York City real estate.

New York Magazine

New York Magazine

But the largest segment of the population in East New York is still struggling to make ends meet: in 2011, the median income in East New York was $32,942 compared to $55,246 in New York City. 38.6% of the population was living below the poverty level in East New York in 2011 compared to 16% in New York City.

The financial dichotomy between New York City’s haves and have-nots is slowly rearing its ugly head in East New York and touches all aspects of urban living, from job opportunities to education to food to transportation.

Speaking of transportation …

For years, Brooklyn officials and residents have called on the MTA to create a free transfer for East New York straphangers needing to switch from the L at Livonia Avenue to the 3 at Junius Street — just a block from each other. Currently, they face two fares each way for a round-trip with transfers for a grand total of $11.

This week, Borough President Eric Adams joined the chorus of Brooklynites asking the MTA to drop the double fares, noting that increased ridership — with more expected — makes it all the more compelling a reason to include the fare discount in the MTA’s 5-year capital plan (2015-2019) — yet to be fully funded by the Governor and state legislature.

John Raskin, executive director of Riders Alliance, echoed BP Adams’s call:

“We should be going out of our way to make commuting in the boroughs easier, not harder.  Free transfers in East New York and other neighborhoods far from Manhattan aren’t luxuries; they would make a real pocketbook difference for low-income commuters.”

Creating a free transfer between the L and the 3 at this juncture would benefit low-income riders in particular, because they traditionally use pay-per-ride Metrocards instead of unlimited passes. It’s a relatively inexpensive way to provide faster, fairer commutes, compared with construction or infrastructure investments.

As a 17-year-old Sierra Simmons, a East New York resident who studies at Arts and Media Preparatory Academy, told the Daily News on Monday:

“It’s crazy there’s not a transfer. I gotta waste a fare every time — $6 is a lot when I’m doing it every day, both ways.”

But in a city filled with ironies, the variety of mass transit options in East New York was one of the reasons it was picked for its make-over. As New York Magazine reported in January 2015, the plan to develop East New York:

“capitalizes on the neighborhood’s rich transportation options. At Broadway Junction, three subway lines come together with an LIRR route that runs between Atlantic Center and Jamaica. The 3 train juts up from the south. Squint at a subway map, and you can almost foresee a convergence of the brown and gray strands of gentrification emanating out of Williamsburg, the blue strand running through Fort Greene and Bed-Stuy, and the red strand from Prospect Park and Crown Heights.”

That’s all fine and good, if one can afford to take the LIRR — a roundtrip peak fare of $16.50 from East New York to Atlantic Terminal — or enjoys free transfers at Broadway Junction between the A-C-J-L-Z. But if you happen to be a few blocks southeast of Broadway Junction and your train lines don’t intersect, you have to leave the station, walk across the street, reenter and re-swipe your card for $2.75. How fair is that?

That’s where Move NY comes in.

Move NY believes it is critical to prioritize investments in the most underserved parts of the city and region, and we believe that the community and their elected representatives should have a seat at the table in deciding how those investments are made.

Therefore, Move NY proposes to establish a $2.5 billion “Community Transit Gap Investment Fund” that would direct MTA, NYCDOT, and county legislatures, in consultation with city, state, and county officials, to make additional investments to help fill remaining transit gaps across the MTA’s 12-county region and prepare the system for additional ridership.

To that end, except where a borough may decide on a single big project, the funds allocated to each borough would be distributed according to a formula that ranks each community district according to criteria such as population (and rate of population growth), median income, congestion levels, ridership levels, access to subways, commuter rail, or bus routes, capacity and overcrowding on subway lines and stations, on-time performance and length of delays, average commute time, and number of pedestrian and cyclist injuries.

Under the Move NY Fair Plan, Sierra Simmons and the thousands of straphangers that are double charged for transferring between Livonia on the L and Junius on the 3 could be treated the same as straphangers at Broadway Junction needing to transfer from one train to another and pay no additional fare. Sounds like a fair fare, no?

In addition, Move NY proposes extending the current LIRR (and Metro-North) City Ticket (which is a discounted fare of $4.25, for example, on the weekends from East New York to Atlantic Terminal) to seven days a week for city residents, making a faster roundtrip commute much closer in price to a roundtrip subway ride.

With a $14 billion gap in the MTA’s capital plan, all hopes are on a special session in the fall or, at the latest, early 2016, to identify how to close the gap and invest in the city’s most important asset. Move NY is the only viable plan thus far proposed, and for folks wanting a free transfer in East New York, it’s just the ticket.


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