The Long Island Rail Road has issued nearly 970,000 Mail & Ride tickets since the program began 37 years ago. James Marsano Marrano's ticket number is 10.
"It's kind of a reminder that I'm getting old," said Marrano, 59, of Port Washington, who along with Stephen Singer, 66, are the only two charter subscribers to the LIRR mail order ticket program still using it today.
The veteran commuters were honored at a special ceremony in Penn Station Tuesday commemorating nearly four decades of Mail & Ride.
"They are among our most loyal customers and we want to say 'thank you' today," said LIRR president Helena Williams, who used the opportunity to promote Mail & Ride. "It's really a hassle-free way to get your ticket."
Marrano was a young college student when he rode the train with his father one morning and noticed the leaflet left on his seat advertising a new way to purchase a monthly LIRR ticket. He signed his dad up, and took over his ticket a few months later.
"To me, it just didn't make sense not to sign up," said Marrano, who works in the garment industry. "The railroad went through a lot of changes over the years, but the one constant is that, on the 25th of every month, there is the Mail & Ride ticket in the mail."
Singer, a Manhattan immigration attorney, had already been commuting for three years when the Mail & Ride program was introduced in 1975. Eager to avoid the long lines at ticket windows, Singer signed up for ticket number 81.
"The pitch was that you wouldn't have to remember to buy a new ticket every month," said Singer, of Great Neck. "They would mail you the ticket and you had to mail them a check."
Marrano and Singer said they paid about $40 for those first Mail & Ride tickets, which were large and rectangular and required a conductor to punch a hole in them each day. Today, they pay $223 for their credit-card-sized tickets.
Joe Calderone, vice president for market development, public affairs and customer service for the LIRR, said about 35,000 customers use Mail & Ride -- more than a third of monthly commuters. Customers can now pay for the tickets by credit card or electronic bank transfer. Calderone said improvements to the LIRR's website this summer will make it easier than ever to sign up.
The LIRR Tuesday thanked Marrano and Singer for their loyalty with a special award and tickets to Broadway's "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark."
The LIRR also recognized two new Mail & Ride subscribers, Jason Lynn, 35, of Huntington, a managing director at a consulting firm specializing in legal technology, and Maribel Valdes, 32, of Lynbrook, an associate inventory planner at Macy's Herald Square.
They are otherwise known as ticket numbers 968,346 and 968,427, respectively.