Comptroller: Metro-North, LIRR should cost MetroCard swipe in New York City

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer says the MTA is forcing riders to choose between a more expensive commute or a cheaper ride that could take three times as long, and he's offering a plan he says will open up the system for straphangers.

Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North trains traveling within the five boroughs of New York City should only cost a MetroCard swipe of $2.75, and not the current ticket prices to travel within the city.

"It costs $9 to go one way from here at Murray Hill to Penn Station," Stringer said. "And in other stations in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, ticket prices are nearly four times as expensive as a MetroCard swipe."

He says lowering fares and allowing free transfers would cut commute times and relieve overcrowding on the subway.

The comptroller's new report, Expanding Access In One Swipe, details the potential impact of the proposal, including how integrating Metro-North and LIRR fares with the subway and bus would cut commute times in half, improve job access, extend the reach of the transit system, and relieve overcrowding on the subway - all at the fraction of the cost of new station and tunnel construction.

"New York City's transit system is in crisis," Stringer said. "While commuter rail tracks carve through the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, working New Yorkers are stuck behind an unacceptable paywall, forced to pay an exorbitant amount or spend extra hours stuck on overcrowded subways and buses."

As part of the report, Stringer called on the MTA to improve job access, reduce commute times, extend the reach of the transit system, and relieve overcrowding by reducing fares for all in-city commuter rail trips, making more local stops, connecting bus service with commuter rail stations, and making all commuter stations ADA accessible.

According to the report, the proposal to open up commuter rail service at 38 Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens Metro-North and LIRR stations for working New Yorkers would cost an estimated $50 million per year, a fraction of the $7 billion and 10 years it is projected to cost to open four new stations along Second Avenue and in Hudson Yards.

CLICK HERE to read the full report.

Andrew Albert, chairman of the New York City Transit Riders Council, issued the following statement in response to Stringer's proposal.

"We welcome the comptroller's recognition of the need to bring rail access to areas of the city that are underserved by subways; in fact, his proposal includes many of the recommendations we made in introducing the Freedom Ticket concept in 2015, which the MTA is now testing in southeast Queens as the Atlantic Ticket. Clearly, more can be explored when East Side Access is completed, additional capacity is added to our over-stretched trains and stations, and the new fare payment system is implemented - as we proposed in our multi-phased proposal. Our rail network is far-reaching and expanding its use within the city would bring service to many areas that lack access to subways, supporting economic growth and accessibility. At the same time, we also need to recognize the commuters who pay full fare and put assurances in place that their service would not suffer and that they would not bear the financial cost of this service. We look forward to learning more about whether the city would subsidize the difference in the price of the tickets, or how this reduced fare program would otherwise be funded. Conceptually we agree that expanding rail service to communities underserved by subways is a good idea - the devil is in the details, which we have yet to see."

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