The New York City Department of Transportation testified at a NYC Council hearing about providing better transportation options in New York’s underserved areas on Nov. 12, including expanding a pilot program aimed at reducing weekend fares on rail.
According to her testimony, Commissioner Polly Trottenberg recognized that eastern Queens and northern Bronx have the longest commutes into Manhattan and also have commuter railroads running through them, but the high fare discourages its usage.
“To give an example, a trip from Rosedale in Queens to midtown takes 83 minutes on an express bus, but takes only 32 minutes on the LIRR,” Trottenberg said. “Those LIRR trips are discouraged by a $10 fare, compared to $6.50 for an express bus, or $2.75 for the local bus and subway.”
She said the de Blasio administration “strongly supports” expanding CityTicket to address the issue, a pilot program for Saturday and Sunday travel between either Brooklyn or Manhattan and Queens on the MTA Long Island Rail Road, or Manhattan and the Bronx on the MTA Metro-North Railroad. The fare for single-direction one-way travel is only $4.25 compared to the regular $10 fare. However, they are conflicted with the potential consequences to the MTA.
“But we do also recognize that the MTA has indicated that an expansion could entail significant revenue loss,” Trottenberg said. “As a result, the City and the MTA have agreed to explore in the coming months the possibility for expanding CityTicket to better serve New York residents while ensuring it also fiscally and operationally feasible for the MTA.”
The decision to expand CityTicket would provide further incentives for the City to address advocates pressing for the reactivation of Rockaway Beach Branch right-of-way that used to extend from the main LIRR train through East Queens and into Far Rockaway until 1962 when it became inactive. However, a land use debate exists because another group of community users are advocating to use the space to build a linear, elevated park called the QueensWay that models the Manhattan High Line.
According to MTA spokesperson Aaron Donovan, the MTA is allowing community users to develop a consensus on what Donovan feels is a political decision.
“If the political process yields a desire for a reactivation of the rail line, then we’d conduct a study of costs and benefits and environmental impact,” Donovan said. “But as of yet that hasn’t happened.”