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MTA tries to sweeten the deal for congestion pricing skeptics

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https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2019/03/20/mta-tries-to-sweeten-the-deal-for-congestion-pricing-skeptics-927051

To win support for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s congestion pricing proposal, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials are offering sweeteners to equivocating outer-borough and suburban politicians, POLITICO has learned.

During a closed-door meeting with outer-borough lawmakers on March 6, MTA officials discussed allowing New York City residents cheaper access to the Long Island and Metro-North railroads that run through their districts, and subsidies for private, for-hire vehicle rides to and from subway stations in neighborhoods with poor public transportation options — an idea the Washington, D.C., Metro is exploring to make up for late-night service suspensions.

“The MTA has been meeting with legislators to discuss the MTA, get their feedback, and address any concerns they may have — and these, along with other issues, were raised and discussed,” authority spokesperson Max Young said.

The MTA will have some $50 million to spend on outer-borough service, thanks to the implementation of a new surcharge on taxis and vehicles affiliated with companies like Uber. 

It’s not clear how much reduced railroad fares for city residents or private vehicle subsidies might cost, or whether they can move the needle among those elected officials who remain leery of Cuomo’s plan to charge drivers to enter Manhattan’s central business district. The state would use the ensuing revenue to bolster the MTA’s fragile finances. The state Senate has signed on to the proposal, but the Assembly remains uncertain.

“I’m still on the fence and I think my community is as well,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, who attended the March 6 meeting and whose Queens district has no subway or railroad stations.

“There’s a recognition that we can’t have a budget that doesn’t fund the MTA,” said Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Westchester), the congestion pricing supporter who chairs a committee with oversight of the MTA and participated in the meeting. “Does that mean congestion pricing? Maybe.”

Spokespeople for Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie declined comment.

Transit advocates have for more than a decade been trying to convince the state Legislature to approve congestion pricing in New York City. The main obstacle has historically been elected officials from the outer boroughs and suburbs, who worry about a backlash from drivers in districts with poor mass transit options.

Advocates have also for years been pushing the MTA to allow city residents to pay reduced fares to access the railroads that run through their boroughs, and whose tickets are significantly more expensive than a bus or subway ride. The MTA runs a limited pilot program that gives some Queens and Brooklyn residents cheaper access to the Long Island Rail Road, but it has suffered for lack of marketing, said Nick Sifuentes, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

Sifuentes thinks expanding the pilot would be “a great idea,” though he noted the Long Island Rail Road has been struggling with capacity issues.

A recent report by Comptroller Scott Stringer found that such a program could benefit residents of 31 New York City neighborhoods.

In addition to its confab with outer-borough elected officials, MTA officials held a separate meeting with suburban legislators. In that meeting, they discussed adding more parking at train stations, and buying more train cars, said Paulin, who attended that meeting as well.

Whether any of this will impact the fate of congestion pricing remains to be seen.

“I’m hopeful but I’m concerned that we’re running out of time,” said Democraticstate Sen. Michael Gianaris, who represents a district in Queens and supports congestion pricing. “The budget is due in little over a week and we still have got a ways to go yet.“

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Sad to see that the Atlantic Ticket program seems to not be doing as well as expected.  Truth is, I have seen very little advertising for it, and I actually use it and CIty Ticket fairly often!

 

And, if they now have $50 million to spend, is this really the best place to spend it? I'd rather then focus on infusing it into the existing subway and bus systems, get them up to par, and then worry about all these other plans. 

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20 minutes ago, QM1to6Ave said:

Sad to see that the Atlantic Ticket program seems to not be doing as well as expected.  

I don't really find that to be surprising. In general, very few people think going to Atlantic Terminal is worth it, as it ends in the vicinity of Downtown Brooklyn instead of Midtown. Moreover, you can't get it unless you're at certain stations.

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1 hour ago, QM1to6Ave said:

Sad to see that the Atlantic Ticket program seems to not be doing as well as expected.  Truth is, I have seen very little advertising for it, and I actually use it and CIty Ticket fairly often!

 

And, if they now have $50 million to spend, is this really the best place to spend it? I'd rather then focus on infusing it into the existing subway and bus systems, get them up to par, and then worry about all these other plans. 

They have pamphlets at Jamaica and Atlantic Terminal, They also mention it on the speakers at applicable stations but that's not enough to entice users who forget the LIRR exists to try it out. 

34 minutes ago, Lex said:

I don't really find that to be surprising. In general, very few people think going to Atlantic Terminal is worth it, as it ends in the vicinity of Downtown Brooklyn instead of Midtown. Moreover, you can't get it unless you're at certain stations.

I agree.. If the LIRR went to Fulton Center that would be much better.

I use the Weekly Atlantic Ticket.

During off-peak hours, the headway along the Atlantic Branch is 30 mins between Jamaica and Atlantic Terminal. The Hempstead and Far Rockaway branches (which serve the Eastern Queens stations that are part of the program) are on hour headway and the St Albans Station gets bi-hourly service. So service levels present a problem.

Getting to Atlantic terminal from Manhattan trying to make sure you can catch the train on time can be frustrating. I've experienced issues where the (4)(5)(R) trains crawl on the way to Brooklyn or like to hang out at Nevins Street or Dekalb Ave. right before a train is supposed to depart.  With 30 min headway minimum you don't want to miss your train. My fall back If i don't believe I'll make it to Atlantic terminal in time is to take the (A)(C) to Nostrand Ave to walk briskly to Atlantic Ave to catch the LIRR there. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Its still actually quicker to get to/from downtown Manhattan via Penn Station, the trains run on 10 min headway between Jamaica and Penn Station with a jump on the (2)(3) will get you downtown in about 30 mins, but 40+ mins via Atlantic Terminal. (The (A)(C)(E) have random gaps in service, you can arrive at the station with 15 mins for the next train arrival)  The trip from Queens Village or Rosedale to Atlantic is 30 mins, but that same 30 mins will also get you into Penn.

Also, If you're around Midtown you can't just jump on the LIRR at Penn. You'd have to buy a separate ticket (I have a backup 10 trip off peak). Getting to Atlantic Terminal Brooklyn would be a hassle with typical subway delays, you'd need 30 mins minimum, and the last train out of Atlantic is 1:42am, after that you need to find another way to Jamaica to continue your trip (if you're using the stations east of Jamaica)

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Taking this moment to mention that in Paris, RER (commuter) and the Métro all have the same fare and free transfers between each other...

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1 hour ago, Lex said:

I don't really find that to be surprising. In general, very few people think going to Atlantic Terminal is worth it, as it ends in the vicinity of Downtown Brooklyn instead of Midtown. Moreover, you can't get it unless you're at certain stations.

Exactly what I said... People want DIRECT access, not a gazillion transfers. For that you can just take the bus to the subway.

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What frustrates me about all this are the opportunities being missed. We’re deincentivizing car travel, that’s great. But it should be followed up with real transportational reform, not an eclectic combination of subsidies here and service increases there. There should be studies on moving the commuter railroads to POP ticketing, of some honest to god upzoning around train stations, of capturing non-core commutes on transit. It’s all well and good to advocate for things like lower commuter railroad fares and better local transit access, but to do so while bypassing discussion of the root causes of the issue is a disservice. 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, N6 Limited said:

 

They have pamphlets at Jamaica and Atlantic Terminal, They also mention it on the speakers at applicable stations but that's not enough to entice users who forget the LIRR exists to try it out. 

I agree.. If the LIRR went to Fulton Center that would be much better.

I use the Weekly Atlantic Ticket.

During off-peak hours, the headway along the Atlantic Branch is 30 mins between Jamaica and Atlantic Terminal. The Hempstead and Far Rockaway branches (which serve the Eastern Queens stations that are part of the program) are on hour headway and the St Albans Station gets bi-hourly service. So service levels present a problem.

Getting to Atlantic terminal from Manhattan trying to make sure you can catch the train on time can be frustrating. I've experienced issues where the (4)(5)(R) trains crawl on the way to Brooklyn or like to hang out at Nevins Street or Dekalb Ave. right before a train is supposed to depart.  With 30 min headway minimum you don't want to miss your train. My fall back If i don't believe I'll make it to Atlantic terminal in time is to take the (A)(C) to Nostrand Ave to walk briskly to Atlantic Ave to catch the LIRR there. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Its still actually quicker to get to/from downtown Manhattan via Penn Station, the trains run on 10 min headway between Jamaica and Penn Station with a jump on the (2)(3) will get you downtown in about 30 mins, but 40+ mins via Atlantic Terminal. (The (A)(C)(E) have random gaps in service, you can arrive at the station with 15 mins for the next train arrival)  The trip from Queens Village or Rosedale to Atlantic is 30 mins, but that same 30 mins will also get you into Penn.

Also, If you're around Midtown you can't just jump on the LIRR at Penn. You'd have to buy a separate ticket (I have a backup 10 trip off peak). Getting to Atlantic Terminal Brooklyn would be a hassle with typical subway delays, you'd need 30 mins minimum, and the last train out of Atlantic is 1:42am, after that you need to find another way to Jamaica to continue your trip (if you're using the stations east of Jamaica)

The frequency of the LIRR branches and getting to Atlantic Terminal certainly are problems for getting people in Queens to take it over bus/subway. I had to do it a couple times from Lower Manhattan and even that was a long trip. 

I do like the idea of LIRR going to Fulton. I seem to recall that being part of a plan to have a direct link to JFK proposed back in the mid-2000s by Governor Pataki. If I recall correctly, two of the options called for LIRR service (most likely with shorter rail cars) operating in the Cranberry or the Montague tunnel. That proposal died when Eliot Spitzer succeeded Pataki as governor. Probably just as well, as I’m not big on the idea of taking away track capacity from the subway lines to make room for LIRR in the subway tunnels, especially in light of the issues with the (R) in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, a new LIRR-only tunnel will bring out the usual cries of “We have no money for it,” as they did in 2007.

Edited by T to Dyre Avenue

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3 hours ago, Lex said:

I don't really find that to be surprising. In general, very few people think going to Atlantic Terminal is worth it, as it ends in the vicinity of Downtown Brooklyn instead of Midtown. Moreover, you can't get it unless you're at certain stations.

It's quite useful for traveling intra-borough (i.e. West Brooklyn to East Queens/L.I.) but as a normal Manhattan-based riding option? Nope, that's for Penn Station. What's more is that it's unfortunate that the discount has to be limited to those stations. Why not try and decongest the heavily congested (7)  with some $5.50 fare? Would be a lot more convenient for many people. 

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What worries me is how long this process is taking, par for the course with NY yes, but I still really don't see any rock solid progress in what could be a potent boost for outer NYC (metro region). This isn't even mentioning all the possible mistakes/further delays they'll make along the way come that time.

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Posted (edited)
42 minutes ago, Bay Ridge Express said:

It's quite useful for traveling intra-borough (i.e. West Brooklyn to East Queens/L.I.) but as a normal Manhattan-based riding option? Nope, that's for Penn Station. What's more is that it's unfortunate that the discount has to be limited to those stations. Why not try and decongest the heavily congested (7)  with some $5.50 fare? Would be a lot more convenient for many people. 

From what I gather, The Atlantic Branch has capacity and the Hempstead and Far Rockaway lines already serve Atlantic Terminal. Therefore, the users of Atlantic Ticket would rarely have to change trains and they could keep the 'study' isolated, whereas the trains to Penn Station are a little more full.

I think they're studying having cheaper fares to Atlantic Only and a more expensive option which would include Penn and the other Zone 1 and 3 Stations. 

It would be more useful to include Penn though. If I'm not mistaken, it took like 5 mins to get from Jamaica to Woodside the last time I took the train to Penn. Those journey times would boost intra-city ridership with cheaper fares, especially with constant QBL issues. (Which is why I started using the LIRR in the first place)

Edited by N6 Limited

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The Atlantic Ticket works well for me because my job sometimes requires me to go from home straight to downtown brooklyn. As an aside, I've really seen downtown brooklyn explode in the last few years, and this direct connection may be more useful as this trend continues. 

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19 hours ago, Bay Ridge Express said:

It's quite useful for traveling intra-borough (i.e. West Brooklyn to East Queens/L.I.) but as a normal Manhattan-based riding option? Nope, that's for Penn Station. What's more is that it's unfortunate that the discount has to be limited to those stations. Why not try and decongest the heavily congested (7)  with some $5.50 fare? Would be a lot more convenient for many people. 

There's one problem: The city residents who take the Long Island Railroad are mostly ones with jobs out in Nassau or Suffolk. It's the Jamaica-Central Nassau, Woodside-Long Island type trips who ride the commuter rails frequently. The Atlantic Ticket does nothing for them because they're coming from points east of Queens like Mineola, Hicksville, and other major work hubs on the island. 

The only other group of people who take the LIRR are either college students traveling to/from LI colleges (Hofstra,Adelphi, Stony Brook, CW Post), or people going to the city during off peak hours for fun and entertainment. 

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1 hour ago, NY1635 said:

There's one problem: The city residents who take the Long Island Railroad are mostly ones with jobs out in Nassau or Suffolk. It's the Jamaica-Central Nassau, Woodside-Long Island type trips who ride the commuter rails frequently. The Atlantic Ticket does nothing for them because they're coming from points east of Queens like Mineola, Hicksville, and other major work hubs on the island. 

 The only other group of people who take the LIRR are either college students traveling to/from LI colleges (Hofstra,Adelphi, Stony Brook, CW Post), or people going to the city during off peak hours for fun and entertainment. 

The whole point of AT was to attract new demographics onto the RR; of course it wasn't gonna serve existing ridership bases.

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On 3/21/2019 at 2:18 PM, N6 Limited said:

They have pamphlets at Jamaica and Atlantic Terminal, They also mention it on the speakers at applicable stations but that's not enough to entice users who forget the LIRR exists to try it out. 

This right here is the damn problem. There is no reason for a subway rider to ever enter the LIRR concourses of these stations. Is there advertising on the subway platforms, or in the neighborhood bus shelters? Probably not. If you were to ask a bunch of people waiting for the Q4, Q5, or Q85 at Parsons/Archer they probably wouldn't know that this thing existed.

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