Long Island Rail Road commuters are speaking out on social media about the deteriorating condition of the LIRR’s oldest passenger cars, but a video posted weeks ago on YouTube shows new LIRR cars being delivered.
Floral Park commuter Christopher Gross, who uses the handle @bkydspacemnkey, posted photos of one of the LIRR’s 1980s-era M3 cars on Twitter. One picture shows a message written on a white piece of tape and placed on a train bathroom: “Out of service. 7/3/18. Don’t flush.” He ended his tweet with #fixthelirr.
“It’s funny, because I really like those old trains. They’re more roomy than the newer ones...It’s just that they’re old and not maintained as well as they could be,” Gross, 46, said Tuesday. “I tweeted the photos to let the railroad know that they have equipment out there that’s just not safe or sanitary.”
The LIRR has said it plans to begin phasing out the old cars in favor of new “M9” model cars beginning this fall. But new LIRR President Phillip Eng has also expressed interest in refurbishing some of the old cars, with their wood-paneled interiors and blue-and-red vinyl seats, in order to meet ever-growing ridership. The M3s make up about 180 of the LIRR’s 1,200 trains.
“Since my first day as president, I’ve heard from our riders about their experiences on the railroad, from cleanliness to the need for more cars and increased capacity,” said Eng, adding that he is “dedicated to improving in both of those areas.”
The YouTube video, recorded in May at a Metro-North station in the Bronx, shows the new cars being hauled by a CSX freight train.
“I enjoyed seeing them and really like the looks of it,” said the man who said he shot the video and identified himself only as “Ozzzy.” He said the video, decades from now, will serve as “a good memory of how they first appeared and . . . how time has changed since they were new.”
The railroad confirmed it is currently testing some of the new trains.
The new trains, manufactured by Kawasaki Rail Car of Japan, will include onboard cameras, closed-loop armrests to prevent ripped pockets, electrical outlets on every row, 32-inch multimedia screens in each car, increased window tint to reduce glare, touchless hand dryers in the bathrooms, and four to six additional seats for every pair of cars.
The railroad has ordered 92 new trains and is negotiating to buy 110 more — both to replace the aging M3s and to bolster its fleet in time for the completion of its East Side Access link to Grand Central Terminal by 2022.
Another 160 “M-9A” cars, which arrive in 2021, will have even more amenities, including USB ports at every outlet, power bathroom doors and damage-resistant windows.
Kevin Sexton, general chairman of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, which represents LIRR train operators, said the prospect of new equipment is “exciting” to his members—even if bidding farewell to the M3s will be bittersweet for some.
“They spent a lot of their careers in that,” Sexton said. “I’m sure there’s going to be people out there who miss it. And I’m sure there’s going to be people who can’t wait to see it gone.”