Freedom Ticket program for LIRR, subway and bus riders still in the works — but no launch in sight

Advocates of the proposed Freedom Ticket say they're not giving up on the idea, despite the distraction of 2017's
Advocates of the proposed Freedom Ticket say they’re not giving up on the idea, despite the distraction of 2017’s “Summer of Hell” and the looming L train shutdown. Photo Credit: NBCUniversal via Getty Images / Paul Drinkwater

The MTA was all set to debut a pilot this fall that would allow city commuters to ride the Long Island Rail Road riders for discounted rates — but then the “Summer of Hell” arrived.

Navigating commuters around Amtrak’s repairs at Penn Station this summer, as well as a new focus on the Subway Action Plan, led the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to put what is known as the Freedom Ticket pilot on the back burner, according to one agency board member and another source familiar with the MTA’s decision making.

“It was put on hold due to the Penn Station work and then everybody was sort of caught up in the subways,” said MTA board member Andrew Albert, who has also been a top advocate for the pilot as the chair for the New York City Transit Riders Council.

The concept of the Freedom Ticket is to bridge bus, subway and LIRR service within New York City under one ticket. The test of the idea was expected to be implemented along select LIRR stations, mostly on the Atlantic Branch, including Brooklyn’s Atlantic Terminal, East New York and Nostrand Avenue stations, as well as Queens’ Laurelton, Locust Manor, Rosedale and St. Albans stations, according to board members briefed on the plan.

Under the pilot, riders would’ve been able to buy single one-way tickets, weekly or monthly passes valid for both subway and LIRR trains. Fares will be more expensive than MetroCard rates, but likely significantly cheaper than the cost of purchasing both a MetroCard and LIRR ticket, according to estimates from the NYCTRC.

Proponents believe the option would cut hours from certain commutes each week by tapping underutilized LIRR service and lessen the strain on the subway and bus system.

It’s unclear now if or when the pilot will launch.

“The MTA is committed to improving service for all New Yorkers, and will continue to look at options like the Freedom Ticket closely,” said MTA spokeswoman Sarah Armaghan in an email.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who announced the news of the Freedom Ticket pilot, said it was “unacceptable” for the MTA to not have such a fare option in place and added that such a service could help alleviate the potential commuting nightmare to come via the L train shutdown next year.

“It’s unfortunate that [the MTA is] not following the schedule that was put in place,” said Adams. “It’s almost a year since the MTA committed to its board that they were instituting the Freedom Ticket. Then they put all their energies around the summer of hell, but this is going to be the year of the L.”

Albert said he and his fellow board members would continue advocating for the pilot this year, with the hopes of launching it before L train service to and through Manhattan shutters in April of 2019.

“We are not relaxing [advocating for] it,” Albert said. “There’s no way it’s dead.”

More from around NYC