The MTA’s commuter railroads currently have complex and confusing ticket systems for everyone involved— riders and workers included. But the rollout of OMNY– fittingly named One Metro New York– to the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North provides the MTA with an opportunity to rethink how it approaches ticketing on the commuter rails. With new and emerging travel patterns as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, lower post-pandemic ridership and changes to commuters’ work schedules, ticketing should be more seamless and flexible for current riders, and also to encourage new riders.
The MTA has a golden opportunity to rethink how fares and tickets work on the commuter railroads as we await OMNY expansion throughout the region. With a target date of OMNY on Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road now set for 2025, now is the time to rethink ticketing and fare policies that make sense regionally and unify the MTA network. Not only should the effort to introduce OMNY to the commuter rails be redoubled, it should also be coupled with policies that make the most of the opportunity.
OMNY’s rollout to the commuter railroads will be transformative for the MTA’s mission to connect the region. It can advance integration between the LIRR, Metro-North and NYC Transit, along with adjacent transit systems like Nassau’s NICE bus, Westchester’s Bee-Line, Suffolk County Transit (SCT), PATH, NYC Ferry, JFK AirTrain, the Roosevelt Island Tram, bike share programs and others—some of which have already started OMNY rollout.
By using OMNY as a means to update ticketing to reflect an MTA commuter rail network more closely connected than ever before, we can help make the best case for riding transit. The following recommendations detail ways that the MTA can use OMNY to streamline and simplify the fare system for riders both before and after it is rolled out to the LIRR and Metro-North.
The OMNY On-ramp: How the MTA can simplify fare payment leading up to OMNY rollout
To make it easier for riders to know how much they should– and will– pay for their trip, whether on one railroad or two, the MTA should invest in steps to communicate and coordinate ticket pricing.
Rationalizing Inter-Railroad Fares
Phase 1: Communication
- Simplify Cross Honoring Policies between Railroads.
- Continue to Incorporate Live Scheduling Information from Partner Agencies into TrainTime and the new myMTA app.
- Use a Clearly Communicated Pricing Formula for Tickets on Both Railroads.
Phase 2: Coordination
- Identify a Core Set of Ticket Types with Easy-to-Understand Conditions.
- Unify both Railroads’ AM Peak Hours.
- Identify Zones on the Railroads where Fares are Similar, and Bring Prices into Alignment.
- Allow for Cross-Honoring of Tickets between the LIRR and Metro-North.
- Offer an Intra-city Combo Ticket Fare.
- Expand and Enhance Fair Fares, Including to Commuter Rail.
The OMNY Environment: How OMNY implementation can consolidate the MTA’s fare systems and improve user-friendliness
New ticketing possibilities with OMNY include the opportunity to integrate LIRR, Metro-North, and NYC Transit fares, making the entire region more connected. Better integrating the MTA region will help encourage riders to take advantage of all the ways to ride the MTA has to offer.
- Connect OMNY with TrainTime and the New myMTA App to Expand Transfer Options between MTA Modes Prior to Full Rollout.
- Create a Weekly CityTicket with Available Transfers to Subways and Buses.
- Adopt a Common Price-per-Mile and Unified Fare Zone System.
- Automatically Show and Charge Riders the Best Fare Available to them.
OMNY’s Potential: How OMNY can be used to improve the MTA’s fare collection
Simplifying the fare structure goes hand-in-hand with improving fare collection. New options and opportunities that will come with the rollout of OMNY can be looked at vis a vis the recommendations from the report issued by the Blue Ribbon Panel on Payment Evasion once discussions and communications with stakeholders have identified appropriate paths forward. Possibilities include:
- Communicate and Work with Riders and the MTA Employees Directly Responsible for Collecting and Selling Tickets.
- Modernize and Improve Both Railroads’ Ticket Collection, with Input from Stakeholders.
New Yorkers are lucky to have the best transit network in the nation– despite the fact that the region’s subways, buses, commuter rail, and other transit modes operate separately from one another. That’s why OMNY’s upcoming rollout to the LIRR and Metro-North is so critical to a more unified future for transit: one where a rider can travel across modes without having to think about how to buy their ticket, get the best price, or whether their transfer is covered. Using OMNY to make travel easier and more seamless has already been wildly successful on subways and buses, and it’s time to bring that to the rest of the region. OMNY has the potential to completely transform the way riders travel through the region and better unify our entire transit network– but first, the MTA needs a roadmap to ensure its full potential comes to life. Soon, it will finally be OMNY time!