MTA unveils promotional discounts aimed at increasing ridership

February 8, 2022 Raanan Geberer
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Brooklyn-to-Queens LIRR riders get deeper discounts; OMNY users can get a `free ride’

As a promotion to encourage New Yorkers to get back on subways, buses, and trains, and to reduce the cost and worry surrounding everyday travel, the MTA  has announced a pilot fare program that is more affordable and more flexible. 

The temporary promotional changes to fare structures will begin Feb. 28 for New York City Transit and Feb. 25 for commuter rail tickets. The pilot will last for at least four months.

One discount that is especially applicable to Brooklyn riders, or at any rate to Brooklyn Long Island Rail Road riders who are going to Queens, is the expansion of the CityTicket. 

LIRR riders who get on at Atlantic Terminal, Nostrand Avenue or East New York (or going between these stations) and who are headed to a number of Queens stations, or vice versa, can now pay a $5 off-peak fare. 

The predecessor program, known as the Atlantic Ticket, was successful in increasing ridership along the LIRR’s Atlantic Avenue branch, and “filled seats that were going empty,” said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber.

This is a 35 percent discount from the LIRR’s current weekday fare between eastern Queens and Brooklyn. A similar discount is available for MetroNorth commuters who ride between Grand Central and Bronx stations 

“Bringing riders back to mass transit depends on three variables – reliability, safety and price. We’ve made it a priority to get creative on fares,” said Lieber. “Transit affordability is also an equity issue, and we are committed to providing a wide range of new discounts, while ensuring the MTA maintains a solid bottom line.”

Asked at a press conference whether CityTicket would become permanent, Lieber said that one of the reasons for the pilot “is to see how people are using the commuter railroads,” but he added that “I hope to see these programs continued.”

The most-discounted weekly fare will be available to all riders who tap with OMNY (as opposed to using MetroCard), without the burden of pre-paying for the week, or having to track their progress. As the OMNY website describes the program, “With OMNY, you can use your own contactless card, your own smart device, or an OMNY card to pay the fare. Just choose your preferred payment method, tap at an OMNY reader, and go!”

Anybody with a device or contactless card can start tapping their way to free rides as long as they use the same device or card each time. 

Customers who tap and go with OMNY will be charged the standard $2.75 pay-per-ride fare for their first 12 trips starting every Monday. Any trips after that through the following Sunday would be free. 

As a result, no OMNY customer would pay more than $33.00 per week, which is the current price of a seven-day unlimited-ride MetroCard. This way customers receive the benefits of a seven-day unlimited-ride card without having to decide to pay upfront.

Free transfers between subways and buses will continue to be offered to all customers under this pilot. Two-part trips that are linked by a free transfer between subway and bus are considered one trip toward the 12 needed to reach the free-fare threshold each week.

“Completion of the OMNY system is still a year away,” said Lieber, “but we want to give people the benefits of OMNY as soon as possible.”

Speaking generally about the state of MTA ridership, Lieber replied, “Just before Omicron, we were at 3.4 million riders, about 60 percent of what it was before COVID. Then, it  dropped down a little over 2 million riders a day, a significant difference. Now, we’ve come flying back from the Omicron surge. New Yorkers are ready to ride.” 

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