LIRR commuters decry quality amid fare hikes

By Samantha Storms and Christian Santos

As the cost of the Long Island Railroad continues to rise, customers say they feel let down by the system’s cost, service and convenience.

From 2007 to 2017, monthly pass ticket fares from Mineola to Penn Station have increased by 31.8 percent while commuters say trains regularly run late, are overcrowded and are not as clean as they had been in previous years. The LIRR, which is the primary transportation option on Long Island, has undergone these routine fare hikes over the past decade. The most recent fare hike, declared in March 2017, raised costs by approximately 4 percent. It expires in 2019. 

Capacity may be to blame for these problems, as the LIRR carries an average of 301,000 customers each weekday on its 735 daily trains.

Customers await the next incoming train at Mineola.

Riders Forced to Choose

For many Long Island commuters, the rising costs of public transportation have left them with few options when traveling. These options, customers say, force the rider to choose amongst cost, service and convenience each time they plan their commute.

Several Long Island residents have spoken out against the increase in public transportation prices as the comfort of privately owned vehicles becomes increasingly more evadable for middle class workers.

“I just bought my LIRR ticket for both ways, and I couldn’t believe it was $17.50,” said Sarah Reddy, 24, a Stony Brook University medical student and Nassau County resident. Since high school, Reddy has relied on the train system to get from her home to Manhattan.

“The thing with the LIRR is that it’s so expensive,” Reddy said. “I think it’s kind of ridiculous, and I was outraged when I bought my tickets just now. It was definitely cheaper in high school, and I could’ve gotten into the city and back for only about 12 bucks.”

For many students, the commute from home to school is often too expensive, forcing them to utilize private transportation.

‘There’s really no other option, but convenience definitely matters and needs to be improved.’

“I feel like the LIRR tickets are pretty high, so I feel like that could be lowered a little,” said Ashley Noble, 21, a biology student in her junior year at Queens College. Noble prefers the reliability of her own private vehicle.

“I don’t use Long Island transportation that much, but it’s definitely more cost effective for me to drive to school,” Noble said. “In a situation where I would have to rely on public transportation, I’d definitely be disappointed. I don’t really like having to rely on a busing system or a system like the LIRR ever, because it’s just such a huge hassle.”

‘At Least Keep Our Trains Cleaner’

Some riders say they would be happy to pay extra for a cleaner service. Given the rising prices of the LIRR and MTA bus system, customers would like to see a step up in maintenance and customer service.

“It’s already bad enough that the train system is so dirty,” said Jonathan Orejaela, 23, a Long Island resident and an associate manager at Regal Entertainment Group. His commute from his home to his job in the city, he says, is often made unpleasant due to the garbage that litters the trains. “I’ll be okay with paying that extra price–whatever they push it up to–but at least keep our trains cleaner.”

Convenience Impacted by Delays

With each year, customers are also becoming increasingly unsatisfied with the convenience of the LIRR as accidents and delays occur with increasing frequency.

According to a 2017 report by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, LIRR trains are only considered late if they have not arrived at their final destination within five minutes and 59 seconds of their scheduled arrival time. As a result, few trains are actually considered late each year, but many customers find the policy to have a significantly negative impact on the service’s convenience.

“The delays are terrible, and I’m always late to work,” Orejaela said. “Every week I buy a seven-day pass. The monthly pass is better, but you only save five or six dollars, and I’d rather keep that extra money for the month.”

Reddy also agreed that MTA should make a better effort to reduce delays and make the LIRR a more timely transportation option. “I’ve lived in Nassau County almost my whole life, but given the opportunity, I would still take the LIRR,” she said. “There’s really no other option, but convenience definitely matters and needs to be improved.”

After several attempts to contact an MTA representative, the Long Island Report received no formal response. Aaron Donovan, the deputy communications director for MTA, said that the press office did not have a comment prepared. However, Donovan has noted that there is no fare increase planned for the upcoming year.