Fed-up LIRR riders have turned to social media to demand better service from the railroad.
Using the hashtag #WeDeserveBetter, Long Island Rail Road customers used Twitter all week to voice frustration after a spate of major LIRR service problems in recent weeks. Some even suggested organizing a “fare strike,” with riders refusing to pay their fares or show conductors their tickets.
The social media action was born out of a number of mostly weather-related service problems, including suspension of all LIRR service following the Jan. 23 blizzard, a problem in one of the four East River tunnels that caused delays and cancellations at the height of evening rush hour on Feb. 12, and widespread problems all day Monday because of heavy wind and rain.
Before long, LIRR riders were using the hashtag to air other grievances with their regular commutes, including confusing service alerts, high fares and even bird droppings at stations.
“#WeDeserveBetter #LIRR ‘signal problems’ 2-3 times a week during AM & PM rush — where is my fare $$ going?” commuter Lisa DeNicola tweeted on Wednesday.
“$373 per month and any complaints fall on deaf ears. Not getting what we pay for! #WeDeserveBetter #LIRR” Gerard Bianchi tweeted, also on Wednesday.
According to hashtrack.com, which monitors social media trends, #WeDeserveBetter has been used more than 600 times on Twitter since Feb. 9.
LIRR commuter John LaPlante, 36, of Holbrook, who takes credit for beginning the movement, said he’s gratified with the traction it has gained.
“None of these complaints are new. They’ve been mounting for years ... The thought behind it was to try to unify all of it and see how much frustration exists,” LaPlante said. “The last several months have just been abysmal . . . I think by rallying people around social media, hopefully it will be enough to get a response out of an elected official or the MTA.”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who has been tagged on many of the Tweets, addressed riders’ frustrations when talking to reporters on Wednesday. He attributed recent service problems to “extreme” weather and said planned infrastructure improvements should help.
Those include projects in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposed $26 billion Capital Program, such as East Side Access, and the recently resurrected plan to build a third track on the LIRR’s Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville.
“We now need the MTA to move as quickly as possible, because these delays are unacceptable. They are really just unacceptable,” Cuomo said.
LIRR spokesman Aaron Donovan said the LIRR would “strongly discourage” riders from participating in a fare strike, which he said “would cause substantial delays — the very thing we are working each day to avoid.”
While the agency’s on-time performance improved in December and January as compared with December 2014 and January 2015, he said, “there were some tough days for our customers, starting with the Jan. 23 blizzard.”
“We acknowledge the difficulties that our customers faced and are working to make improvements,” Donovan said. “We analyze any incident that delays significant numbers of trains to learn from it and identify ways to improve our operations.”