Metro-North extends validity of one way and single round trip tickets
Metro-North Railroad moved Monday to relax an unpopular policy from two years ago by lengthening the time riders can use one-way and round-trip tickets from two weeks to two months.
In December 2010, the railroad cut the validity of the tickets from six months to two weeks, 10-trip tickets were cut from one year to six months and the railroad also adopted a $10 refund processing fee as a way to limit lost revenue from tickets not collected by conductors.
Metro-North will also extend the refund period for one-way tickets from one month to two months, but the shorter validity period for 10-trip tickets and the administrative fee will remain unchanged.
The policy change will also apply to Long Island Rail Road tickets, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The policy change follows an expansion of Metro-North service announced last week, with both changes enabled by better-than-expected funding from real estate taxes and other sources that had caused hundreds of millions in shortfalls in the MTA's budget in late 2010, officials said.
"The abbreviated validity periods that were implemented 18 months ago in the depths of the MTA funding crisis were very unpopular with our customers," Metro-North President Howard Permut said. "Today, we are pleased to be able to respond to those complaints by extending the validity and refund periods."
Earlier this summer, officials said Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road brought in an additional $8.5 million in revenue since late 2010 from the processing fee and ticket validity changes.
Connecticut Rail Commuter Council Chairman Jim Cameron said the imposition of validity limits on tickets in 2010 sidestepped a long-standing issue customers have raised, asking the railroad to improve collection of tickets from customers.
Tickets paid for in advance should not have an expiration date, Cameron said.
"Nothing burns a commuter more than seeing someone getting a free ride, and seeing a rider scam the conductor by not turning in a ticket or not showing their ticket is like watching someone walk into Walgreens and steal something," Cameron said. "Reducing the validity of the tickets is the wrong way of approaching the problem."
At a commuter council meeting in Stamford last week, Sue Doering, Metro-North's senior director of service and stations, said railroad administrators prioritized addressing ticket collection, and said riders should report instances when conductors miss collecting tickets.
"It's something that we focus on a lot and you should let us know when you see that," Doering told the body.
State Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, said while Metro-North's changed policy will give some riders a break, the gesture is outweighed by the economic effect of a series of fare increases on the New Haven Line over the next six years as well as a lack of guarantees revenue will be used to defray the cost of operating and maintaining the railway's equipment.
In May, budget officials for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy tapped the state's Special Transportation Fund for road and transit projects to fund general government expenses rather than address long-deferred upgrades to the New Haven's Line infrastructure, she said.
"I'm glad that Metro-North are doing something but I think daily commuters would much rather see their fares go down," Lavielle said. "It was too bad when they initially abbreviated the validity limits and nice to see them extended again."