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LIRR's ridership rises 4 percent

In May, the number of LIRR riders went

In May, the number of LIRR riders went up by 4 percent to 7,169,078 from 6,892,954 a year earlier, railroad officials said Monday. (July 2, 2012) Credit: Nancy Borowick

The Long Island Rail Road's ridership increased for a ninth straight month in May, and the railroad is looking at ways to sell even more tickets using handheld credit card readers.

In May, the number of LIRR riders went up by 4 percent to 7,169,078 from 6,892,954 a year earlier, railroad officials said Monday.

Ridership has been on the rise since September, after decreasing steadily for nearly three years beginning in 2008. In 2011, the LIRR fell behind Metro-North Railroad for the first time as the busiest commuter railroad in the country.

Helping give the LIRR a boost in May was the restoration of half-hourly midday service for Port Washington customers on weekdays. The LIRR had cut the service to hourly in 2010.

After restoring the service on May 14, midday, weekday ridership on the line increased 12 percent, Williams said.

"We certainly want to see this trend continue," LIRR president Helena Williams said. "We think making good, safe and reliable service available to our customers will serve them best and attract new riders, as well. We have to make sure that we have the scope and breadth of service that the customers need."

To help accommodate those customers, the LIRR also is expanding its use of portable credit card machines to sell tickets to customers at busy stations during special events.

On Friday, June 8, the LIRR conducted 94 ticket transactions using the machines at Hunterspoint Avenue Station for riders using its special Hamptons weekend service.

The next day, agents posted 851 ticket transactions for those traveling to Belmont Park for the Belmont Stakes. At the park, another 585 transactions were conducted using the special "Ticket Issuance Machines" -- nicknamed TIM.

The devices use an iPhone, a cradle with a built-in credit-card swiper and a printer to issue tickets. Conductors have been testing the machines for months on some trains on the Montauk and Greenport lines.

There is no surcharge to buy tickets using the machines, but if a rider boards at a station that has a ticket machine, he or she still faces the usual penalty for buying a ticket on the train.

Williams said the LIRR will continue using the devices to sell tickets at stations during special events. They also continue to be used to sell tickets aboard some trains on the Greenport and Montauk lines.

"What we like is being able to provide our customers with the speed of the transaction," Williams said. "We're really trying to be nimble in the way we serve our customers."

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