Long Island Rail Road commuters will be able to hang on to their unused tickets a little longer. Together with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), New York State , R-Mineola, and Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, D-Great Neck, announced this past Wednesday that the commuter rail line would be extending the period for one-way and round-trip tickets to be used as well as their refund periods from one to two months.
“I believe that they signal a new direction for the Long Island Rail Road, a direction that takes our commuters first,” Martins said during a press conference at the .
“What’s happened since 2010, there’s been a number of cuts, it’s hit our suburban riders in terms of service cuts, in terms of the validity of the ticket,” Schimel said, pointing to restoring weekend service on the Port Washington line as well. “These are steps, there’s more to be looked at.”
While the MTA did approve $29.5 million in service investments as part of its 2013 financial plan, it is also incorporating fare hikes of 7.5 percent in 2013 and 2015 as well as state aid and union employee givebacks.
The changes mean single and round-trip tickets,which had only been valid for 14 days from date of sale, can now be used up to 2 months and refunds can now be issued up to 60 days rather than 30 days. It also means that 10-trip tickets are valid up to 6 months as well as being able to issue a refund during that time period.
The new extended validity periods go into effect on September 4.
“It’s better customer service,” Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams said. “We are pleased that we’ve been able to respond to our customers and say ‘yes, we understood that there was a hardship.’ We think that this is a much more reasonable period.”
However, one of the main complaints is still in existence: a $10 surcharge for refunds, which effectively makes one-way and some round trip tickets worthless as customers would have to pay more than the face value of the ticket in order to get their money back. The current cost of a one-way off-peak ticket from Mineola to Penn Station is $7.25.
“There is a cost for us to do processing,” Williams said. “We’re going to watch that, we think that refund fee will get less used; they’ll be less refunds because people will be able to use the ticket during the new extended validity period.”
The MTA had shortened the length of time tickets could be used as well as imposed the ticket refund surcharge in December 2010, eliciting outrage from numerous commuters, including a who first brought the issue to Martins’ attention in February 2011.
Though attempts at a passed the state senate three times, the assembly has not voted on the measure. Martins stated that the bill would reintroduce the legislation in 2013.
“We have gotten it to the point where I think we’re close,” Martins said. “Like everything else in Albany, things are incremental; sometimes you take a half-step forward in order to take that other half-step forward the following year. If there’s a ‘restocking fee,’ like we see in retail, if there is a restocking fee, that restocking fee certainly isn’t more than the value or the price of the product itself.”