BY TRONE DOWD
Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) stopped Community Board 12’s first meeting of the fall on Wednesday, bearing news for his constituents who take public transportation on a daily basis.
“I want to thank the community for your overwhelming support that you have given to this movement that we have brought forth,” Miller said. “At the beginning of October, our commuter rail equity will begin.”
The announcement was met with loud applause. As chairman of the City Council’s transportation committee, Miller has fought to bring the commuter rail equity program to the transportation desert of Southeast Queens since 2015. The program, which would allow straphangers travelling within New York City limits to pay a fare equal to that of a MetroCard ride to access commuter rails such as the Long Island Rail Road.
The plan would also honor free transfers between New York City Transit subways and buses and commuter rail options that often go underused due to pricing. Meanwhile, transit lines—such as the E train and numerous buses that run through Southeast Queens—have seen tremendous amounts of overcrowding, further hindering the already struggling transit infrastructure.
Miller’s resolution has been backed by a number of Queens elected officials throughout the borough, including Council members Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) and Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest). The plan has also picked up support outside the borough from Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn), who is pushing for the same solution in his part of the city. City agencies and civic groups— including the New York City Department of Transportation, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1056 and Transit Riders Council—announced support for the plan last year.
Miller said that while a date hasn’t been nailed down, residents can expect to hear specifics on the plan shortly.
“We always say this stuff isn’t always sexy, but it’s very specific for us here in Southeast Queens,” Miller said.
A spokeswoman for Miller told the PRESS of Southeast Queens that the councilman is excited to see the plan in action, and views it as a solution to some of the transit-related issues that his constituents face.
“Saving money for the people is always a good thing,” she said.
She pointed out that—through the plan—the MTA will resolve transit issues in the area, without having to spend additional money or build infrastructure.
“The resources are already there,” she said. “It’s just a matter of letting the people access them.”
Miller has long said that opening up affordable commuter rails to more residents allows people to reduce their commute times considerably. While taking a crowded bus to a crowded train may take an upwards of two hours for those traveling into the city, riding a LIRR train from St. Albans or Rosedale would take significantly less time.
“That would give communities, families, many hours—at least five to 10 hours per week—back to their families and their communities,” Miller said.