LIRR extends waiting room hours in more stations
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The Long Island Rail Road will leave the lights on for you.
LIRR officials yesterday said the railroad will keep waiting rooms at 41 stations open until 10 p.m., giving nighttime customers somewhere to feel safe, dry and comfortable, besides their cars, as they wait for the next train.
The decision expands a pilot program of the past few months that kept waiting rooms open longer at 20 stations.
Railroad president Helena Williams said the program grew out of a suggestion from the LIRR Commuter Council, which sought to build on the agency's policy of leaving waiting rooms open during severe weather.
"They said, 'We know you do a great job when you have bad weather. How about customers who just want to access these waiting rooms when you don't have bad weather, but they're waiting for a train anyway?' " Williams said at a Rockville Centre news conference.
During the 20-station test program, the LIRR monitored whether the extended hours resulted in any significant challenges, including keeping customers safe and keeping vandals away. Because that test was "very successful," Williams said, the railroad decided to expand it to more than half of its 78 stations with street-level waiting rooms.
LIRR station waiting rooms usually are open only during morning and early afternoon hours.
The stations getting longer waiting room availability -- including Ronkonkoma, Mineola and Rockville Centre -- have automatic locks that are timed to activate at 10 p.m. LIRR officials said a recorded message will play several minutes before 10 to notify customers that the waiting room is about to be locked. Motion censors will detect if someone is still inside after 10 p.m. and notify authorities.
Commuter Council chairman Mark Epstein said he'd like the LIRR to eventually have all of its station waiting rooms open at night, but he applauded the agency for "a strong first step."
"This pilot program . . . demonstrated what can be done when we work together and focus on the riders," Epstein said.
Claudine Walrend, who often travels on the LIRR at night from her baby-sitting job in Rockville Centre to her home in Brooklyn, said she was pleased to hear about the extended hours, but added it was crucial that the LIRR keep waiting rooms clean and free of people loitering.
"This is how we like it," Walrend said while waiting for her train in the Rockville Centre station waiting room. "No smelliness."