Op-ed | Making NYC’s transit system more equitable

Janno Lieber
MTA Chairperson and CEO Janno Lieber speaks at Grand Central Terminal on March 16.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

My mission as the MTA’s Chair and CEO is to make sure that we’re leveraging every part of the system to make public transportation more accessible and equitable for New Yorkers. While subways and buses tend to be the modes of choice for most city residents, some could see a greater benefit from the commuter railroads. 

Riders living in southeast Queens for example could save up to an hour of travel time if they opted for the Long Island Rail Road instead of taking a bus and subway. That’s precious time back to spend with friends and family. So why don’t more people try it?

We know that historically price has been the deciding factor in choosing a subway and bus commute over the LIRR and Metro-North. That’s why it was so important for us at the MTA to consider intracity rail discounts when developing our package of new fare promotions, which were introduced last month.

We landed on an expansion of the existing CityTicket to weekdays off-peak. The CityTicket program provides a $5 flat fare for one-way trips taken wholly within the five boroughs – like from Woodlawn in the Bronx to Grand Central Terminal or from Bayside to Penn Station. The deal was previously available on weekends only.

Demand for the new ticket is off to a good start – more than 100,000 weekday CityTickets have been sold since the launch – but I know we can do better. We’re going to continue highlighting the benefits of CityTicket, our new 20-trip ticket (perfect for hybrid workers!) and monthly ticket discounts (saves 10 percent!), especially as major service improvements come online for both LIRR and Metro-North. 

East Side Access, our marquee megaproject, is going to bring LIRR service to Grand Central for the first time ever when completed later this year. This will allow us to increase service frequency by up to 30 percent at some stations.

Meantime, the Third Track project is adding some much-needed LIRR capacity on the Mainline, which serves Queens communities from Woodside to Queens Village, and will provide reverse commuters more options given the ability to run additional two-way service during rush hours.

And we’re not forgetting about Bronx residents who live in Metro-North territory. MTA just awarded a contract for Penn Station Access, the project to build four new MNR stations in the East Bronx – a noted transit desert. The new rail options at Hunts Point, Morris Park, Co-op City and Parkchester/Van Nest will help cut travel times to Manhattan by as much as 50 minutes. 

It all comes back to our commitment to transit equity – the driving force behind everything we do at MTA.  

Janno Lieber is chair and CEO of the MTA.