Should college students get a discount on the LIRR?

By David Lazar

Seniors, veterans and children receive reduced fare Long Island Rail Road tickets. College students do not.

 Molloy College is piloting a program to provide discounted Long Island Rail Road tickets for commuter students. Above, a view of a LIRR car. Photo courtesy Thrawn/Wikimedia Commons

With low-paying on-campus jobs and high-interest student loans, financial hardship is common among college students. Before Covid-19, many said commuting to school on the LIRR was a financial hardship. This will hold true when students return to classes.

“I commute to school and drive because the LIRR is too much money,” Hofstra student Matt Novella said. “It’s impossible for me to pay $30 a day while paying for tuition and other expenses.”

New Jersey Transit offers students 25 percent off tickets into New York City, and other rail lines, including Amtrak, the Chicago Transit Authority and Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, provide discount rides for those who travel for school, but the LIRR has yet to implement such a program.

Molloy College is addressing the concern by offering reduced fare tickets. The school recently began a “Ride the LIRR to College” reimbursement pilot program, the first student ticket program between a university and the LIRR.

“Students are always looking for ways to not only save money, but be socially responsible at the same time,” Molloy student Jordan Auriemma said. “Molloy’s partnership with the LIRR helps students do both.”

Qualified Collaborative Arts Project 21 students are eligible for 25 percent off a monthly or 10-trip ticket for their commute to and from school, subsidized by Molloy.

Through this program, monthly ticket holders will save $770 for the year, or $77 a month, while students who use 10-trip tickets will save $218 for the year, or $21.81 a month.

“Molloy has placed a big emphasis on being a good community member,” Molloy Vice President for Advancement Ed Thompson said. “It’s an investment in our students, while setting an example for the wider region.”

 Many Long Island commuter students said riding the rails to school is too expensive. Photo by Paul’s Photos/Wikimedia Commons

With the third-track project under way and Penn Station renovations planned, MTA officials say they are attempting to upgrade the LIRR to better accommodate Long Islanders. Molloy officials said the school would like to help students commute by rail.

“Symbolically, the fact that students see we want to help is a powerful message to send,” Thompson said. “We are being sensitive to our students’ needs and showing that we are a good community neighbor. We are trying to do our part.”

This is the only college-student ticket program on Long Island, but there are more than 20 college campuses in the region.

“I hope other schools do similar programs,” Thompson said. “Getting people off the roads is a regional goal.”

Hofstra University is one of the largest colleges in the region, with 43 percent of undergraduate students coming from Long Island, according to the Hofstra website. The Hofstra Honors College has experience working with the LIRR to provide discounted 30-person group tickets, an idea that could be explored for the larger university community.

“Group rates are very helpful,” Warren Frisina, dean of the Hofstra’s Honors College, said. The tickets “are much less money. It seems like something worth thinking about for the entire campus.”

“If you have a cluster of students going into the city for internships, for example, without doing anything fancy, group tickets would be a great idea,” he said. “It would not require Hofstra or the LIRR to pay anything and could be easily done, saving everybody money.”