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Freedom Ticket pilot program ‘being set up for failure’ in its current form, officials say

A group of eight elected officials sent a letter to MTA chairman Joe Lhota, urging him to reconsider the current Freedom Ticket pilot program.

The Freedom Ticket pilot program combining Long Island

The Freedom Ticket pilot program combining Long Island Rail Road and subway or bus fare will not work if riders have to transfer at Atlantic Terminal, elected officials said in a letter to MTA chairman Joe Lhota on March 5, 2018. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Several elected officials are claiming the MTA’s Freedom Ticket pilot program has been set up for failure before it has even been launched.

The highly-anticipated pilot program would allow commuters from select areas of Queens and Brooklyn to buy one-way tickets, weekly or monthly passes that includes a ride on the Long Island Rail Road and then a transfer to the city’s subway and bus systems in an effort to provide seamless transfers and shorten commute times.

While the fares would be more than MetroCard’s rates, they would be cheaper than the cost of buying both an LIRR ticket and a MetroCard combined.

But revisions to the pilot that would force Queens residents to transfer at Atlantic Terminal in order to reach Manhattan would increase commute times substantially, the group of eight officials contend in a letter to MTA chairman Joe Lhota, dated March 5.

“. . .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 letter reads. “The pilot is therefore being set up for failure, an outcome that is unacceptable, as it will not properly serve southeast Queens residents, allow for sufficient outreach in the community, nor gauge their use of a long-term program.”

The letter was signed by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, Sens. Leroy Comrie and James Sanders, Assembs. Alicia Hyndman and Clyde Vanel, as well as City Council members Adrienne Adams and Daneek Miller.

The original proposal, put forth by the New York City Transit Riders Council in 2015, would have given commuters from Rosedale, Laurelton, Locust Manor, St. Albans, Hollis and Queens Village the opportunity to purchase a $6.50 one-way Freedom Ticket that would take them to Penn Station or to Atlantic Terminal, with one transfer to city subways or buses included in the cost, according to the officials.

“The Freedom Ticket has great potential to reduce the cost and time burdens faced by southeast Queens transit users who commute to Manhattan,” the letter reads. “Right now, these residents must either pay a high price (currently $10.25 for a one-way peak fare) for a quick trip on the LIRR, or a lower fare for a much longer trip via New York City Transit.”

The pilot in its current form is “inferior,” the officials added.

Lhota had said in January that the Freedom Ticket program would launch in 2018, adding that the agency was “very, very close” to launching it.

An MTA spokesman said the agency was reviewing the letter.

With Vincent Barone

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