Long Island commuters angry over LIRR cuts

The MTA is cutting back weekday trains and off peak services, canceling weekend services, and raising ticket fares. Commuters are now waiting longer for their delayed trains and sometimes are even forced to changed lines.

The cuts are part of an effort to make up for a $900 million budget shortage on the Long Island Railroad.  The cuts will save an estimated $950,000 this year, and $3.8 million annually starting in 2011.

In addition to these service cuts, the MTA is planning a fare hike effective January 2011, which could raise rates as much as 9.4 percent.

The LIRR is not the only public transit system struggling on Long Island.  Long Island Bus, which has long suffered from budget issues, could be facing total collapse without additional funding from the MTA.

Riders React – Video:LIRR Consumers voice their Anger on Service Cuts

“This is affecting my work.  I have to leave probably another half an hour early to get to work,” said commuter Youritza Santz, 35.  “We should leave things the way they are and not [be] cutting services. The LIRR should think about people before themselves.”

The LIRR understands the sentiment but says the cuts are necessary.

“These service reductions and layoffs are painful for our customers and employees but are necessary,” LIRR spokesperson Joe Calderone said.

Other residents all over Long Island have felt the sting of service cuts.

For the past two months, Christopher McLaughlin, a 22-year-old Massapequa resident currently in the NYPD Police Academy he has taken a 1:18 express train from Massapequa to Penn Station to get to 20th street by 3:00p.m., but that train is being pulled from service because of construction. He now has to take a local 12:33 p.m. train or a 1:33 p.m. Local trains from Massapequa to Penn Station are at least 15 minutes longer than express.

“I didn’t think the changes were going to affect my train,” he said. “I figured the trains would be more crowded, but I never heard that afternoon trains were being eliminated from the Babylon line.”

Hofstra students have been among those affected by the cuts.

“Yesterday I drove to the city because I was worried about the train being too crowded and not getting a seat,” Hofstra senior Danielle DeLuca said.

DeLuca has to rush back to Hofstra for a night class once she gets out of her internship at five.

“I have been taking the train from Bellmore on days that I don’t drive, because that’s where I live,” she said. “But I was thinking of using the Hempstead or West Hempstead station because they are closer to campus and I can get to my night class quicker. With the cuts and alterations, I don’t think that’s possible.”

“It’s totally ridiculous,” said Mineola resident Concetta Sarola. “How can something so important to people be so unreliable? This is not good.”

With reporting by Mike Manzoni, Farhan Husain, Matt Scotto, Dani Frank, Danielle Ruggerio, Luz Pena, Ashley Scorziello, and Lauren Shalit.  Compiled and edited by Pat Holohan.