Metro-North nixes early ticket expirations

After eight months of customer complaints, Metro-North Railroad is abandoning its early-expiration policy on one-way and round-trip tickets. But commuter advocates say it still isn't enough.

Beginning Tuesday, Sept. 4, one-way and round-trip tickets will be valid for 60 days — an increase from the current 14 days — including the day of purchase.

The refund period for 10-trip tickets is being extended from 30 days to 60 days from purchase date, according the railroad. Tickets purchased on or before Labor Day will still only be valid for 14 days. Ten-trip tickets remain valid for six months before and after the holiday.

But the $10 refund processing fee will remain in effect for all tickets.

For the past eight months, riders had two weeks to use their Metro-North train ticket before it expired. That change led to many upset travelers.

Why the change? "Massive unhappiness," Marjorie Anders, a Metro-North spokesman, told Hersam Acorn Newspapers Thursday, Aug. 23. "There were a lot of complaints. So we just decided to ease up a little."

Metro-North decided to reduce the time tickets were valid late last year, having the new policy take effect on the first of the year.

But the Connecticut Metro-North Rail Commuter Council says this move still is not enough. The council has been fighting the decision to reduce ticket validity since before it took effect on Jan. 1.

"There is no reason that tickets should expire," Jim Cameron, chairman of commuter council (and transportation columnist for the Hersam Acorn Newspapers). "Passengers have paid for a ride and they should get it unless there's a fare hike and then they should pay the difference between the old fare and the new one."

Mr. Cameron said Metro-North's rationale for ticket expirations is that conductors can't collect all the tickets. "They should do their job, use seat checks and collect fares," he said.

"The railroad itself says their revenues have gone up millions of dollars since the new rule went into effect," Mr. Cameron said. "I'm guessing a lot of that was on the backs of folks who bought tickets only to find them worthless."

Mr. Cameron said by making tickets expire sooner, there's less incentive to buy tickets in advance — particularly 10-trip tickets, which can save customers 20% to 30% — and that can lead to longer ticket lines. "It's anti-consumer and discourages use of mass transit."

For now, Metro-North, is touting its move.

"We think it is going to be well received," Anders said. "We just went a little too far. We are in a serious budget crunch and we were looking for every single way to increase revenue."