When the Long Island Rail Road experiences delays, it's the everyday commuters who often have to pay. From increased daycare costs to lost wages, Long Islanders who work in New York City are left to bear the brunt of the LIRR's woes.
Four Long Islanders explain how train delays affect them.
Derailment cost her a midtown waitress job
Delayed Long Island Rail Road trains cost Bethpage resident Marissa O’Connor her job as a waitress at a midtown Manhattan restaurant.
O’Connor, 25, said she was fired last year after she missed a shift for the third time in three months.
“There was a derailment that affected service for almost an entire week,” O’Connor said.
“The manager said I should’ve taken a cab to another station but when I explained that there were no trains running from Hicksville she told me to go somewhere off the Babylon branch. But to take a taxi to a train in Suffolk from Nassau would have been way too expensive.”
She earned $7.50 an hour plus tips.
O’Connor’s commute “usually doubled” to about an hour and a half. She was about 40 minutes late to work or The New School, where she earned a master’s degree in psychology in May, each time a train was delayed or canceled.
“It took me seven months to financially recover from being fired,” she said. “I got behind on my rent and had to borrow money to pay it.”
O’Connor said she “tried” working at a restaurant in Bethpage.
“I wasn’t making very much money,” O’Connor said. “Working in the city, I make twice as much money in half the time.”
O’Connor, who said she spends $300 a month on an LIRR pass, and is waitressing in the city again, said she refuses to take a taxi or Uber for her commute.
“When the LIRR messes up, taxis surge their prices,” she said. “The whole situation is frustrating.”
Delayed, canceled trains necessitate search for new nanny
Erica Lam, a 39-year-old South Hempstead mother of two young boys, said delayed and canceled LIRR trains led her nanny to quit.
“On average, I’d get home about an hour or two late,” said Lam, a producer at NBC News. “But one night I was three hours late. I got home around 9 p.m.” Her sons are 3 years old and 20 months old.
That night in June, she was riding on a train that broke down in a tunnel for about an hour. Eventually it was brought back to Penn Station, where she boarded another train.
Her nanny, who had been working since 7:45 a.m., and who normally left no later than 6:45 p.m., bathed Lam’s children and put them to sleep. Despite earning $20 an hour in overtime, the nanny told Lam she would leave by the end of the month.
Lam, who said she paid her nanny about $600 in overtime, is now looking for a new nanny. She said she may have to keep paying overtime hours to a new hire.
“I can’t keep leaving work early” to try and avoid delays, Lam said. “I’ve even had to call into work three times and used personal days just so I didn’t have to deal with the LIRR.”
Sometimes she feels like she “barely gets to see” her children, Lam said. “These delayed and canceled trains are robbing me of tucking them in and kissing them good night.”
Costs keep adding up for him during LIRR issues
Juggling work, Long Island Rail Road delays and his two young daughters has become challenging for Gerard Joseph, 38, a financial controller who lives with his wife in Valley Stream.
Joseph commutes into Manhattan each weekday for his job on West 97th Street. He pays a nanny to watch one daughter and a day care to look after his other daughter.
For every half-hour he’s late to pick up one daughter, the day care charges $20.
“If it happens two or three times in a week — that’s good money right there,” Joseph said.
“With the nanny, we have a relationship, but being late of course makes me vulnerable, so I have to pay more or tip more to compensate.”
In addition to spending more than $400 on LIRR tickets each month, Joseph said he’s opted to drive to work in order to get around major delays he hears on morning news broadcasts. That adds up too.
“In the morning if I watch the news and its ‘delay this, delay that,’ sometimes I can’t deal with it,” he said. “I pay about $11 on tolls and if I can’t find free parking another $17 to park in a lot for the day — then there’s gas and the general wear and tear on the car.”
He said the MTA should compensate riders who’ve been delayed.
“If there is some punitive damage for every 10, 15 minutes we’re late — I guarantee they would find a solution,” he said.
Executive assistant loses paid time off, works late hours
Long Island Rail Road delays and cancellations have forced Bethpage resident Susan Marten, an executive assistant at an investment bank in Manhattan, to use paid time off, including vacation days, to cover for missed work hours.
She’s been commuting for 20 years, but in the past six months, issues with the train have made her late to work about three times a week.
“I’ve already used 40 hours, one whole week, of my paid time off because of the LIRR,” Marten said.
“If I don’t work the hours, I don’t get paid. I have to clock in 40 hours a week, especially if I want to accrue overtime. If I’m not there on time, I have to work late and if I can’t stay late to work the overtime, the financial loss and the loss of productivity is significant.”
With delays, her 50-minute commute to and from Penn Station “usually takes 75 minutes or longer” depending on “the issues of the day,” she said. When train troubles require her to drive to the city, she spends about $60 on gas, tolls and parking.
Marten, who said taking a similar job on Long Island would represent a 30 percent pay cut, said she often logs extra hours when she gets home from work, sometimes after 9 p.m.
Marten said though her boss is understanding, she often worries about how her work performance is perceived.
Marten also sings professionally at Long Island venues, and she has turned down gigs on weeknights fearing a delayed or canceled train.
“My annual commute is about $5,000. And for what? For being late, stress, sacrifice,” Marten said. “I feel like they’re stealing money from me, time from me, my life.”