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LIRR riders react to weekend booze ban

LIRR passengers were given a choice between disposing

LIRR passengers were given a choice between disposing of their alcohol and boarding the train or returning to the mezzanine. (May 19, 2012) Credit: Charles Eckert

It was a "dry" ride for Long Island Rail Road passengers early Saturday as an overnight ban on alcohol took effect at midnight Friday.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority police asked people boarding the trains at Penn and Jamaica stations to throw away their beers -- a directive that got mixed reactions from riders in the wee hours of the morning.

Many were compliant. Some passengers, particularly those who were sober, were in favor of the measure, hoping it would cut down on late-night chaos on the trains.

"People drinking on the train late at night can be loud and boisterous," said Shakena Ackman, 32, of Central Islip, who was heading home with her husband on the 12:14 a.m. Ronkonkoma train.

To others, the rule seemed excessive, infringing on their rights to relax with cold brews.

"I'm disappointed," Ashwi Williams, 28, of Elmont, said. "Some people are working 13-hour days and they need to mellow out with a beer."

MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said the debut of the program appears to have gone well, with no arrests or major incidents.

The pilot program prohibits alcohol on LIRR trains and platforms from midnight Friday to 5 a.m. Saturday and from midnight Saturday to 5 a.m. Sunday.

The ban follows two March assaults of train crew members, MTA officials said.

At Penn Station, posted signs and a digital ticker below the arrivals board alerted passengers to the ban. Announcements made over the loudspeaker advised that MTA police would enforce it.

About a dozen police officers stood on the train platform, pointing passengers with drinks toward trash bins that steadily filled with discarded beer bottles and cans, many wrapped in paper bags and half-consumed.

Aboard the trains, fliers explaining the alcohol ban had been left on seats for passengers. Pairs of officers patrolled the train cars checking for alcohol.

Many said they understood MTA officials' intentions, citing drunken and combative youths as target offenders, but they questioned whether the action would curb violence.

"If they're going to assault conductors, they're already drunk when they get on the train," said Brittany Matson, 21, of Floral Park.

Her friends, Meagan Mosie, 22, of New Hyde Park, and Kaitlin Lucke, 22, of Floral Park, were enjoying beers at Penn Station as they waited for their train home. They planned to finish them before they got on the train but noted that not everyone would be willing to follow the rules.

"The more the restrictions, the more people are going to rebel," Mosie said. "It's hard to enforce it."

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