Photo by Adam E. Moreira
By McKenzi Thi Murphy
The Long Island Railroad should provide all student riders with discounted fares. Full stop. It is inconceivable that college students in the Long Island area do not have this option, particularly for those attending Stony Brook. This demand is even more pressing with the upcoming fare hikes the MTA has recently announced.
Stony Brook University has a considerable commuter population and is infamous for being absolutely dead on the weekends as students return home, many to the city. A round-trip ticket from Zone 13 (Stony Brook) to Zone 1 (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens) is $27.50 during off-peak times and $38 for peak. A student who returns home every single weekend during a semester would hypothetically be spending approximately over $400. Reasonable enough, but college students are not exactly known for having hundreds of dollars lying around every single semester.
What the LIRR does offer is a discounted fare for high school students and younger people. And considering the only students consistently taking advantage of it are likely within Zones 1 and 3 – no young students on the East End regularly take the LIRR, that’s for sure – it’s not exactly a service-wide benefit.
At the very least, Stony Brook University has a duty to its students to provide us with a semester pass, given the tuition we are paying.
Student fares and school-sanctioned semester passes are not unprecedented. The Massachusetts Bay Transport Authority allows students to purchase passes through their school for an 11% discount on regular fares.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transport Authority provides college students a University Pass as long as their college is part of the program, and eight currently are.
Even the Public Transport Council in Singapore has multiple official student rates (a monthly pass on unlimited train rides costs the equivalent of $33 for university students).
But maybe it’s just a New York thing where train-riding students are considered fully-fledged adults for once in their lives instead of being constantly dismissed as mere kids. Except no. Amtrak, right here in New York, allows students age 13-25 a 15% discount with a valid student ID as long as they book three days in advance.
Granted Amtrak is a cross-country service, and the LIRR is local, but the principle still stands, and certain trips on the LIRR are definitely longer than certain trips on Amtrak. (It takes three hours and 15 minutes to travel from Penn Station to Montauk and I would never recommend it to anyone ever.)
The LIRR does its university student riders a disservice by not taking into account our already-crippling financial situations. Tuition, loans, room and board. Students who are no longer able to depend on their parents for support, but also do not yet have a steady income source cannot afford such high fares.
The train is the only reasonable method of public transportation on Long Island that is accessible to Stony Brook students. At least those living on the Forks can enjoy the Hampton Jitney bus service into the city, but it only goes as far west as Manorville.
And all of this doesn’t even consider the numerous issues around the LIRR itself: consistently late trains, maintenance issues, the general unpleasant aesthetic of Penn Station, to name a few.
A company that can offer senior, veteran, and medical discounts – as they should – and can offer “Summer Saturdays” for just $1 for monthly ticket holders is equally capable of offering a student rate too.