Should the Long Island Rail Road reduce fares for riders during the upcoming two months of Amtrak construction work in Penn Station?
Riders who are flooding Twitter and other social media with complaints about unreliable, unpredictable service even before Amtrak’s work begins already think they’re paying too much for too little service, especially given weeks of service delays and cancellations.
As one Twitter wag put it last week, as May ended and June began, “A big part of my soul dies each month while buying my new @LIRR ticket.”
But, really, why shouldn’t LIRR riders — many of whom pay in advance for monthly passes or e-tickets — be compensated for construction-related misery?
Last week, the Port Authority, which operates LaGuardia Airport, announced that its “redevelopment promotion” rate of $18 for parking — at long-term lot P-10, the farthest away from terminals — would be extended through the end of August.
The airport’s $8 billion redevelopment, which is expected to last a decade, has snarled traffic into and out of the airport. The promotion rate — which slashes the usual $39 daily fee — is geared toward reducing vehicle congestion at the terminals, where rates at closer-in parking facilities have been increased.
More to the point for LIRR riders, however, was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s decision last month to order as much as a 63 percent reduction in fares for some New Jersey Transit customers during Amtrak’s summer repairs.
New Jersey Transit will lose about $15 million by reducing fares for riders on the Morris-Essex lines. Instead of heading directly into Manhattan, those lines will be diverted to Hoboken — where New Jersey will pick up the tab for PATH train and ferry tickets to midtown.
The state’s move to lower fares, Christie said, will “compensate for Amtrak’s failings.”
Is New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo considering asking the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to do the same for LIRR riders?
A statement from Jon Weinstein, a Cuomo spokesman, didn’t address the question of a fare reduction directly, but said: “The governor has directed the MTA not only to come up with mitigation plans that will get Long Islanders where they need to go during Amtrak’s repairs — but also work with the MTA board to assess options that would fairly compensate commuters who are being inconvenienced.”
“LIRR riders have had enough of Amtrak’s failures making a misery of their commute,” according to the statement.
Mitchell Pally, an MTA board member who lives in Stony Brook, said fare reductions were among options under consideration. But he noted that, unlike in New Jersey, no single line is being diverted from Manhattan.
“Trains will get to Manhattan,” Pally said — although there may be fewer trains running, some of which may be diverted to other points, such as Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn.
Steve Bellone, Suffolk’s Democratic county executive, and state Sen. Carl Marcellino, a Syosset Republican who is on the senate’s transportation committee, expressed support for the idea of commuter compensation. Bellone and Marcellino — along with Pally and Edward Mangano, Nassau’s Republican county executive — also stressed the urgency of doing what’s necessary to get needed infrastructure repairs done at Penn Station.
As of Friday, LIRR riders still were awaiting the MTA’s plan for moving riders in and out of Manhattan during Amtrak’s summer repairs. In conference calls between government and other officials, there’ve been discussions of everything from using ferries and upping the passenger limit in HOV lanes to mapping out a series of alternative parking sites where commuters could board buses.
Sounds like a preamble to, as Cuomo predicted, a “summer of hell.”