MTA needs to ‘step up its game,’ scrap fare hikes: Phillips

State Sen. Elaine Phillips is calling on the MTA to scrap fare hikes until service is improved. (Photo courtesy of the office of state Sen. Elaine Phillips)

State Sen. Elaine Phillips is calling on the Metropolitan Transit Authority to scrap planned Long Island Rail Road fare hikes until train service is improved.

The Flower Hill Republican sent a letter to MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota and the board on Monday stating the LIRR “needs to step up it’s game before turning to already overburdened fare payers for more revenue.”

“LIRR commuters are not getting what they are paying for,” Phillips said in a release.  “And adding to their burden only brings insult to that injury.”

In 2017, the Long Island Rail Road had its worst on-time performance in 18 years, according to a March report by the state comptroller’s office.

More than 21,000 trains were late, cancelled or terminated throughout 2017, according to the report.

In her letter, Phillips notes the audit identified more than 2,000 trains trains that were delayed by at least 15 minutes in the months of December and January alone.

In April, Phillip Eng was appointed LIRR president. He replaced Patrick Nowakowski, who served for nearly four years and oversaw 2017’s reported worst performance.

LIRR spokeswoman Sarah Armaghan said Eng is moving ahead with the LIRR Forward program, to tackle problematic areas.

She also noted the LIRR’s multibillion dollar investment to modernize the system, including the LIRR Expansion Project that will add a third track along the mainline stretching from Floral Park to Hicksville.

“We understand riders’ frustrations when train service is impacted and that’s why Long Islanders are seeing so much improvement work underway right now on the LIRR system,” Armaghan said.

However, some argue that service has still yet to improve.

Phillips noted that in the past two weeks there were three instances of LIRR derailments and “three straight days of interrupted rush hour service and overpacked trains.”

In her letter, Phillips said that “despite the continuing lack of reliable service” the MTA still plans to roll out 2 percent annual faire increases for four years.

It will be the seventh fare hike in the past decade.

“Raising fares while service continues to falter on a daily basis is a misguided move and will only further hurt the thousands of commuters who are already facing the worst rail service in two decades,” Phillips said in the release.  “The MTA needs to scrap its fare hike plans until it can achieve measurable improvements in service, on-time performance and customer satisfaction, as well as a reduction in equipment breakdowns and avoidable delays.”

The fare policy is part of a public process and a series of upcoming public hearings will be held regarding the topic, according to the MTA.

Biannual fare increases help support operations and finance LIRR capital projects, according to the MTA.

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Rebecca Klar

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