In another sign of the Long Island Rail Road's shrinking ridership, the LIRR carried fewer people in September than its smaller MTA sister railroad, Metro-North, according to newly released figures.
Some transit officials said it's the first time that they could remember that the Metro-North Railroad's monthly ridership beat that of the LIRR.
"Metro-North's numbers have been moving up the last couple of years and, as we all know, the Long Island Rail Road's numbers have been coming down for the last year and a half," said MTA board member Mitchell Pally of Stony Brook. "It was clear that at some point they were going to cross. And in September, they crossed."
In September, the LIRR carried 6,834,092 riders, about 1 percent less than Metro-North's ridership of 6,899,663.
In a statement, the LIRR noted that several unexpected incidents impacted the LIRR's recent ridership figures.
In September, the LIRR suspended service in much of Suffolk County for a day and a half because of concerns over Hurricane Earl. Later in the month, a tornado in Brooklyn and Queens caused widespread service disruptions that also impacted ridership.
Since December 2008, LIRR ridership has dropped in every month compared with the same month in the previous year, except for once - July of this year. LIRR officials have largely attributed the drop to the economic recession and the high unemployment rate.
"Economic recovery is occurring at different rates in different parts of our region and both railroads will continue to pursue ways to show that public transportation is still the best way to travel," the LIRR said in a statement. "As the economy picks up, we expect the LIRR ridership will rebound."
For the entire year, the LIRR is carrying more people than Metro-North. Through September, the LIRR carried 61.2 million people, compared with Metro-North's 60.6 million.
However, over the past decade, Metro-North has made significantly bigger gains in ridership than the LIRR. From 1999 to 2009, annual ridership went up just more than 1 percent for the LIRR, but more than 16 percent for Metro-North.