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Long IslandTransportation

For LIRR riders, it's not just getting there — but getting there in their favorite seats

Darren Kotchek of Plainview waits for a train

Darren Kotchek of Plainview waits for a train at the Hicksville Long Island Rail Road station on Friday. He says he likes train seats with a lot of legroom. Credit: Kendall Rodriguez

Many riders stroll onto the LIRR with what might be called a "seat strategy" — a preference for a perch by a window, or the door, or beside a plug to charge their phone.

For instance, Kierah Thompson, 28, of Huntington, gets on the train with a definite plan. She likes to sit by one of the charging sockets on the train because, she said, "I'm always on my phone."

But there's more. She makes sure she sits in a row with two seats, as opposed to three. She piles her backpack and other stuff on the other seat. And should some people come by looking for a seat, she said she will act like she is asleep so they leave her alone.

"I know it's selfish, but I don't like to share [the row]," Thompson said.

Oh, and she avoids as much as possible sitting next to the bathroom in the train car. For obvious reasons.

On Friday, a Newsday reporter performed an absolutely unscientific survey of Long Island Rail Road riders on their seat preference. Speaking to eight people at the Hicksville station, it became clear that the great majority had a favorite kind of seat, though the choices varied.

Moreover, it was surprising how strongly people felt about their preference. Maybe that's why people run for the trains when boarding at Penn Station.

The survey was spurred by a viral tweet by Gabriel Bautista, a college student from the Bronx, who recently asked people their favorite subway seat. Mayor Bill de Blasio weighed in, saying he shuns the seats with little legroom. Former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said he prefers standing. The tweet has received 2,300 retweets and 18,600 likes.

Over at the Hicksville station, amid a misty morning rain, Priya Vani, 38, of Westbury, said she darts to a window seat because she enjoys the views of the passing landscapes.

"After work I need to relax," said Vani as she waited Friday for her husband to pick her up at the Hicksville station, having just come in from her administrative job in Queens. "I need to watch outside."

Meeli Dosa, 24, of Hicksville, said she favors a window seat, but not just any. She likes the three-seat rows. That way she can usually have an empty seat between her and another rider. 

And she eschews those seats in the middle of the train car that face each other, forcing riders to sit knee-to-knee.

Patricia Henry, 54, of Hicksville, said she has to be facing the direction the train is going. And she wants a window. The views, she said, teach her about the various communities along the way.

Darren Kotchek, 43, of Plainview, a regular commuter to Penn Station, likes to monopolize whatever space is around him. So he likes getting those seats that are the train equivalent of a bulkhead seat, the ones with lots of legroom because they are at the end of the rows. They also have charging outlets.

The salesman said he likes to spread himself out, stretching his legs as he works on his laptop or takes in a podcast.

"I should not monopolize," he said. "But I'd rather have the space."

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