On Elmhurst, the LIRR and a better CityTicketBy
A few months ago, Queens representatives gathered with MTA officials to discuss the old Elmhurst LIRR station. Shuttered in 1985 due to declining ridership, politicians want to reopen the station with the neighborhood booming, and the MTA isn’t opposed to the project. With a population increase of 45 percent between 1980 and 2010, the neighborhood, currently served only by the M and R trains, is at least a 30-minute train ride away from Midtown and could use speedier transit.
Recently, a Wall Street Journal article offered up a summary of things:
The R and M subway lines that currently stop in Elmhurst take between 30 and 40 minutes to reach Manhattan during peak hours—on crowded trains. The LIRR train from Elmhurst would arrive at Manhattan’s Penn Station in roughly 15 minutes. “If people are given the opportunity to shave off about half an hour from their commute, that’s an enormously valuable product,” said Mr. Crowley, adding that the move would also open up Elmhurst as a neighborhood for additional people to explore.
LIRR officials say they are giving the issue “serious consideration.” Improvements being made on the Port Washington line will add capacity, according to Helena Williams, president of the LIRR. The project would cost between $20 million and $30 million, she said The next step, Ms. Williams added, will be a ridership study to be conducted in the next year or so, that will analyze the potential market for the LIRR in Elmhurst.
Robert Valdes-Clausell, an Elmhurst resident since 1966 and treasurer of the Newtown Civic Association, said residents are “already being exposed to the rumbling of the [LIRR] train and there is a tremendous increase in population density.” With the number of residents “expected to grow even further, this is a great opportunity to accommodate and serve the people,” he said.
The costs depend upon accessibility. With an elevator, the project would likely reach its $30 million estimate; without, it could afoul of ADA regulations and cost $20 million. That’s not the real issue though.
The biggest problem, as reports from earlier this year noted, is the cost of a ride. A subway swipe from Elmhurst Ave. costs, at most, $2.25 — and no one really pays that much on a daily basis. An LIRR monthly pass starts at $163, and individual peak rides run upwards of $7. The $3.75 City Ticket is good only on Saturdays and Sundays. Why?
The MTA has long treated its sub-agencies as separate fiefdoms that don’t play well with others. While back-office functions have been combined in recent years in an effort to eliminate redundancies, fare policies have remained stubbornly separate, much to the detriment of transit usage. It shouldn’t cost that much more to take the LIRR from Forest Hills than it does to take the E or F trains, and if the MTA is seriously about adding another LIRR stop in Queens or Metro-North access in the Bronx, the fare policies should be better unified. Otherwise, missed opportunities will abound.