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It looks like pathetic on-time rates and deplorable customer service aren’t enough to stop the MTA from implementing its seventh fare hike in ten years. The LIRR confirmed that, as scheduled, commuters will see increases of 4% tacked onto their already-high commuting costs in early 2019.
Due to declining ridership, the LIRR is taking in less money than anticipated, and experts project they will face a deficit of $376 million between 2019 and 2022. The cash-strapped agency is now scrambling to fill the void in its budget by turning on farepayers.
Laughably, the MTA places the blame on ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft for the revenue decrease, and says little of its own unacceptable service. Commuters, however, know the real reason riders are taking to the streets.
In 2017, the LIRR had its worst on-time performance since 1999. Throughout the entire summer, passengers encountered daily rush-hour delays, cancellations, and severe overcrowding. Two commuters even filed a lawsuit against the organization for failing to provide customers with “any semblance of comfort or safety” during the so-called “Summer of Hell.”
Rather than allocating what funds they did have to much-needed car and track repairs, the MTA opted to stripe two underground tunnels in the state’s blue-and-gold color scheme, costing over $30 million. That’s right – a glorified backsplash took priority over improving rider safety.
Although new LIRR president Philip Eng has proposed an “LIRR Forward initiative,” which aims at improving infrastructure and service, commuters still face brutal rush-hour delays due to failing infrastructure, glitches in planned track work, and other avoidable interruptions. Despite persistently unforgivable service, the MTA’s plans for a fare hike remain unchanged.
The LIRR needs to reach an acceptable level of service if it hopes to regain the trust of its customers. Rather than hiking fares on the backs of commuters, the MTA should focus on improving the terrible conditions citizens have endured for over a year. If not, riders will continue to abandon the service for more comfortable and reliable transportation, leaving the MTA even more desperate for cash.
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Photo from Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York