The Long Island Rail Road targeted planned service cuts to routes with low ridership, where operating costs far outweigh ticket revenue, according to a railroad financial analysis released Thursday that shows how much each line's customers pay for fares and how much the railroad spends to supplement their rides.
LIRR officials provided the figures - the first branch-by-branch breakdown they said the railroad has done - in a bid to justify proposed service reductions aimed at helping the Metropolitan Transportation Authority close a $383-million gap in its 2010 budget.
The disclosure comes as the railroad prepares for its first public hearing Monday on service cuts that, according to LIRR chief financial officer Mark Young, would affect 17,000 daily customers and save the cash-strapped railroad $11 million. A customer is counted as a single ride.
The hearing is scheduled at 6 p.m. Monday at Chateau Briand, 440 Old Country Rd. in Carle Place.
The figures show that riders on the line from Ronkonkoma to Greenport, where service is to be canceled entirely except for summer weekends, pay 12 percent of the cost of that route's operation. Systemwide, the railroad's 83.3 million annual riders pay 44 percent of the cost to run the branches.
In December, facing huge budget shortfalls, the MTA board approved broad service and administrative cuts across its agencies. The proposed changes also include elimination of LIRR late-night service to the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, reduction of trains on the Port Washington Branch, and elimination of several Long Island Bus routes.
"We are trying to be as transparent as possible as we embark on a painful round of staff cuts and service reductions," LIRR president Helena Williams said in a statement Thursday.
Maureen Michaels, chairwoman of the Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council, Thursday night reiterated her opposition to the service cuts.
"The very substance of public transportation and the LIRR is to serve residents Islandwide. Cutting service is a regressive strategy and sets us back in ways that are deeply troubling to those who call Long Island home and want to envision a future here," Michaels said in a statement.
The LIRR's analysis shows that on the West Hempstead Branch, where the railroad plans to eliminate weekend service, passengers on weekends and during weekday off-peak hours pay just 10 percent of the operating cost. The change is projected to save $587,640 annually.
On the Port Washington branch, where the railroad plans to reduce weekend and off-peak weekday service from every half-hour to every hour, customers during those periods pay 37 percent of the operating cost. The change is projected to save more than $1.2 million annually.
"Most people don't know that what they pay for their ticket is less than half of the actual cost of the ride," LIRR spokesman Joe Calderone said. The rest is subsidized by taxpayer funds, he said.
With Alfonso A. Castillo