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MTA Board Meeting Testimony-“Eagerly Anticipating East Side Access (and Freedom Ticket!)”

Good morning! I’m Kara Gurl, Research and Communications Associate at the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA (PCAC).

Like many riders, we’ve been waiting eagerly to hear about an opening date for East Side Access. We welcome the news of Grand Central Direct shuttle service between Grand Central and Jamaica before full service begins, but with 10 days left in 2022, the clock is ticking to open even this modified service before the end of the year.

We hope that by running the Grand Central Direct shuttle as phase one, you can collect enough feedback to iron out any issues and adjust accordingly before officially implementing new LIRR schedules. We’re also glad that this shuttle will operate in addition to full service to Penn Station in the meantime. If opened in time, this will create a more seamless traveling experience during the busy holiday season, especially for those going to and from JFK.

The new Combo Ticket is a great step, and represents a future where riders can seamlessly transfer between trains at one station, on one ticket, and in one app. The next step is full Freedom Ticket implementation, with reduced commuter rail fares within the city and an option to transfer to the subway or bus.

But for riders within the city—for example, going from Fordham on Metro-North to Jamaica on the LIRR— it will still be more affordable to get two separate $5 CityTickets for each railroad than the off-peak $7.25 Metro-North fare plus $8 for the second leg. We’re thankful that the New NY Panel has recommended for CityTicket to apply 24/7, and are hopeful that riders traveling within the city will soon be able to transfer more affordably between all of the modes the MTA has to offer with Freedom Ticket.

We have long called for Fair Fares expansion to people making 200% of the federal poverty line instead of the 100% it currently is. Next, we hope to see the city pay for Fair Fares expansion to the commuter railroads as well, to help the many low-income New Yorkers living in subway deserts access nearby commuter rail stations.

These initiatives all take money, and we’ll keep fighting for transit to be funded like the essential service it is. Thank you.