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The MTA has approved pilot programs to reduce commuter fares

Patrick Cashin

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved a set of pilot programs that reduces costs for commuter rail service Wednesday.

The MTA hopes that these programs get more riders back to the transit system after ridership plummeted due to the pandemic. MTA Board member Sarah Meyer said the discounts would help lure back riders.

"We want to win our customers back because public transit is good for them,” Meyer said. "The fare pilots we are launching are more affordable, flexible and more fair than any fare products we’ve designed in a long time."

The programs reduce the cost of 20-trip tickets by 20%, lengthen expiration dates and reduce prices for Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North tickets — and make other fare changes for monthly riders. The new fares take effect in March.

Lisa Daglian, the executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee for the MTA, advocated for these programs.

“It's critical that riders know that the MTA is safe and that the MTA is there for them and the MTA is the best way to get around,” Daglian said. “If the MTA does not recover from the pandemic then our regions can't recover and riders are a big part of that recovery.”

Danny Pearlstein, a spokesperson for the Riders Alliance, said it was time for the MTA to offer cheap and fast commutes through these programs, including the Freedom Ride, a flat $5 ticket for all weekday off-peak trips within New York City.

“Freedom tickets are the linchpin to the success of Penn Access because those fares are four to five times more expensive than they should be,” he said. “Then people won’t use the system and people will continue to suffer through punishing commutes up to an hour and a half or two hours.”

Natalie is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.