A westbound LIRR train. (July 26, 2011)

A westbound LIRR train. (July 26, 2011) Credit: Kevin P Coughlin

Quiet cars debut Monday on the Long Island Rail Road.

As part of a pilot program, four morning and six evening rush-hour trains between Far Rockaway and Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn will have a designated quiet car where noise is kept to a minimum.

LIRR President Helena E. Williams said in a statement Sunday that with more electronic devices like smartphones, tablet computers and music players in people's lives, many riders had asked for noise relief.

"This pilot is meant to respond to customers who seek quiet during their travels on the LIRR and is part of our overall effort to improve customer service," Williams said.

The program is voluntary, with quiet car riders asked to refrain from talking on the phone. Sound on all electronic devices is to be disabled, and if headphones are used, the volume is to be kept at a level that can't be heard by other passengers. While commuters can talk in quiet cars, they are asked to use subdued voices.

LIRR Commuter Council chairman Mark Epstein of Melville said, "The concept is great," but he has questions about the implementation of the program and its enforcement. Epstein said his group was not involved with the program's development, though it had offered.

For now, Epstein said the commuter council is withholding judgment.

"We are going to sit back and wait and see what the results are," he said.

Reaction to the introduction of quiet cars was mixed at Huntington Station's LIRR stop Sunday, where Farah Rothbeind, a paralegal from Glen Cove, described the idea as "silly."

"I always need to be on my cellphone," said Rothbeind, 35. "I always need to do stuff. I have business and things going on in my life. It's important that I be able to use my phone."

Taking the opposite view was Joe Bond of Commack, a retired engineer.

"Great idea," said Bond, 83. "You don't need to listen to somebody else talking."

Last summer, quiet cars were introduced on some Metro-North lines and after being well-received, were expanded to all peak trains. Amtrak also has quiet cars. After gauging rider reaction, officials will decide whether to expand the use of quiet cars on the LIRR.

Conductors in the cars will hand out "shh" cards to noncompliant riders spelling out the rules of conduct and asking for cooperation "on behalf of your fellow customers."

The last car on the 5:22 a.m., 6:28 a.m., 7:18 a.m. and 8:54 a.m. departures from Far Rockaway to Atlantic Terminal will be designated as quiet cars.

And the first car will be the quiet car on the 4:31 p.m., 5:11 p.m., 5:49 p.m., 6:27 p.m., 6:59 p.m. and 7:56 p.m. departures from Atlantic Terminal to Far Rockaway.

With Nicholas Spangler

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