EDITORIAL: LIRR proves it needs upgrade
In the trial by fire that has tested the mettle of Long Island Rail Road riders - and workers and executives - there's an ironic echo of Joni Mitchell's lyric: "Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got till it's gone?"
No one got hurt, but the continuing disruptions on the LIRR, plus unrelated delays on NJ Transit and Amtrak, remind us that the smooth functioning of our complex mass transit system is essential to the regional economy. Delayed and frazzled employees don't make for efficient workplaces.
Monday morning's electrical fire at the Hall Tower in Jamaica came only a few months before this fall's scheduled completion of an upgrade to the pre-World War I signal and switching system - a priority of Helena Williams, LIRR president since 2007. There's no guarantee that the cutting-edge computerized system will be immune to fire, but it will allow for quicker diagnosis and repair of problems.
The fire also underlines the difficulty of running a railroad with a huge bottleneck: Jamaica. Relieving that would cost a lot. But right now, money's in such short supply that only two years of the MTA's five-year capital plan are funded.
Though the LIRR communicated well as the week went on, gripes on Monday show that it can always do better. But the bigger problem for government leaders is finding ways to fund the changes needed, such as East Side Access, to keep this railroad moving on time and improving on schedule. hN