BY SAM RAPPAPORT
A group of Queens elected officials are voicing strong opposition to an MTA proposal that would revise the agency’s original “Freedom Ticket” plan, which aims to offer Southeast Queens residents discounted Long Island Rail Road fares to Midtown Manhattan.
The original plan, as proposed in 2015, would provide commuters with a discounted one-way LIRR fare between six southeast Queens stations—Rosedale, Laurelton, Locust Manor, St. Albans, Hollis and Queens Village—and Penn Station in Manhattan or Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn.
The discount brings a one-way peak weekday fare from $10.25—which officials say is cost-prohibitive for Southeast Queens commuters—down to $6.50. The MTA’s proposed revision to the Freedom Ticket plan would strip commuters of the option to travel directly to Penn Station. Instead, Freedom Ticket subscribers would have to transfer to Manhattan through Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn.
On March 6, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica), State Sens. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and James Sanders Jr. (D-South Ozone Park), Assembly Members Alicia Hyndman (D-Springfield Gardens) and Clyde Vanel (D-Queens Village), and City Council Members Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica) and I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) penned a joint letter to MTA Chairman Joe Lhota to protest the Freedom Ticket revision.
“As you know, we have been avid supporters of the ‘Freedom Ticket’ plan put forward by the New York City Transit Riders Council in 2015,” the elected officials wrote. “The inferior Freedom Ticket pilot program now under consideration, however, would force users…a transfer that would substantially increase their commuting times….Given this significant limitation, without the option of Penn Station, I expect few Southeast Queens residents would use Freedom Tickets if the pilot program is implemented in its current state. The pilot is, therefore, being set up for failure, an outcome that is unacceptable as it will not properly serve SEQ residents, allow for sufficient outreach in the community, nor gauge their use of a long term program.”
The elected officials said that a commute from Rosedale to Penn Station that takes only 34 minutes on the LIRR would take more than an hour if the commuter was forced to transfer from the LIRR to the subway at Atlantic Terminal.
Reach reporter Sam Rappaport at email@example.com or by phone at (718) 357-7400, ext. 123.