Queens Electeds Lobby MTA To Restore Original “Freedom Ticket” Plan

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Residents of southeastern Queens aren’t into punching their “Freedom Ticket” if it means a detour into Brooklyn en route to Manhattan.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz/via Facebook
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, State Senators Leroy Comrie and James Sanders, Assemblymembers Alicia Hyndman and Clyde Vanel, and City Councilmembers Adrienne Adams and Daneek Miller yesterday sent a joint letter to MTA Chairman Joe Lhota expressing their opposition to the MTA’s proposed revision to the “Freedom Ticket” plan.

The lawmakers wrote that the plan, as the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) put forward in 2015, would ease the commutes of thousands of southeast Queens residents by allowing them to buy discounted tickets for the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), the rail line that offers southeast Queens the fastest transit option for getting to and from midtown Manhattan.

State Senator Leroy Comrie
Sen. James Sanders

“Specifically, the original proposal would have allowed passengers entering or exiting the LIRR at six southeast Queens stations (Rosedale, Laurelton, Locust Manor, St. Albans, Hollis and Queens Village) to take a one-way trip to or from Penn Station in Manhattan or Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn using a “Freedom Ticket” sold for a discounted price of $6.50.

“The Freedom Ticket would also include a free transfer to New York City Transit subways and buses. The present plan by the MTA, however, only allows the Freedom Ticket fare to Atlantic Terminal and excludes Penn Station,” they wrote.

The NYCTRC’s proposal would give southeast Queens residents a LIRR fare to and from Manhattan that is 37 percent cheaper than the one-way peak fare. It would also give transit users who do not currently use the LIRR a more affordable way to travel and would cut their commuting times almost in half, according to a 2015 NYCTRC report.

Assembly Member Alicia Hyndman
Assembly Member Clyde Vanel

The lawmakers argue these cost and time benefits would be a boon to southeast Queens residents and do much to make southeast Queens more accessible to the rest of the city and make the area an even more attractive place to live, work and visit.

However, they argue the inferior Freedom Ticket pilot program now under consideration would force users seeking to get to and from midtown Manhattan to transfer at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, a transfer that would substantially increase their commuting times compared to what they would be if they could travel directly between Penn Station and southeast Queens on the LIRR.

“This pilot would also not accurately be able to determine the amount of relief to the subway lines that the original Freedom Ticket would provide. We see very little change possible with this pilot,” the lawmakers said.

City Council Member Adrienne Adams
Councilmember I. Daneek Miller

“As you know, we have been avid supporters of the ‘Freedom Ticket’ plan put forward by the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) 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,” they concluded.

The MTA Board is expected to take up the issue at their next public board meeting slated for 10 a.m., Wednesday, March 21 in the MTA Board Room, 2 Broadway, 20th Floor, in Lower Manhattan.