The Long Island Railroad (part 2)

by Linus

So I did get a resolution to my most recent issue with the LIRR.  A few hours after I left a message with Public Affairs, I did get a call back from a manager.  She obviously took the side of the conductor who gave me a ticket, which as I said, I ultimately did not have a problem with.  I was most concerned that I was going to have to essentially double pay for that ride.  She told me that the LIRR has a policy where they will “take care” of this once in your life.  The obvious good news is that I will not have to pay for my ticket, but the clear head scratcher here is the once in my life scenario.  So I asked her that if this situation happens again to me in 12 years, am I going to have to pay…and she said yes.  Clearly that would not make me a frequent offender, but she said the railroad is firm on that policy.  She tried to rationalize it by saying that they are still the only organization that allows you board without paying first, citing that you cannot even enter the subway without first paying.  While she is right with her example, it really doesn’t justify their policy.  I suggested they keep notes in people’s accounts so they can identify frequent offenders, but she said with 250,000 daily riders, that is “too onerous a task for the feeble (I added feeble) railroad”…hey, you said it honey.

The Long Island Railroad is so far behind the times, it is almost comical (that is unless you actually ride the train and have to deal with it).  Lets first start with the gap between the train and the platform.  While it is virtually impossible to completely eliminate the gap (unless you have a motorized extension from the platform to the train, but who has the cash to do that), it is possible to minimize it.  Does the railroad do this?  No.  They choose instead to simply make announcements that there is a gap, so essentially all they do is make you aware that there is a problem, they don’t actually fix the problem.

Now lets talk operational efficiency.  Weather is a clear issue when you are driving on the highway, it snows, the roads become harder to navigate…but not the railroad tracks right?  Clearly they are immune to weather, right?  Nope…not the LIRR.  I want you to understand that I am not going to exaggerate here, when it rains (and I’m not talking torrential downpours), there are delays.  When it snows, or even when it is just cold, there are delays.  The newest one too add here is when it is hot, we now get delays.  So to summarize, the railroad always has delays…right?  The answer is yes.

We haven’t even begun to get into the switch problems.  I don’t know for sure, but my guess would have to be that the current LIRR switches were installed somewhere around the completion of the War of 1812.  I am signed up to get emails whenever there are delays on the LIRR, and I can tell you that without exception, there are delays relating to switch problems at least every other day.  Now the LIRR has no problem with raising the cost per ticket, I guess they would rather pay their employees instead of actually fixing their antiquated systems.  I cite a recent article that appeared on MSNBC’s website about a LIRR train repair man who while his base salary was approximately $66K/year, took home a little over $200,000 thanks to overtime bonuses.  Clearly we are dealing with an organization that has their priorities in the right place.  Let’s pay our employees obscene amounts of money in overtime so we can screw our customer base!  That is a model for business success.  But again, the LIRR has no incentive to change, they know the alternative to not riding the train is to sit on the LIE for 6 hours a day…there’s nothing we can do.

So being left with no other choice, I am just going to have to deal with the delays, deal with the problems, remember my ticket, and hope it doesn’t get worse.