Long Island Rail Road commuters will be able to hold on to their unused tickets a little longer.
Together with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), New York State Sen. Jack Martins, R-Mineola, and Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, D-Great Neck, announced last week 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 Mineola train station.
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 two 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 six months as well as being able to issue a refund during that time period.
The new extended validity periods go into effect on Sept. 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 peak ticket from Bethpage to Penn Station is $11.50.
“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.