Call it a tropical storm of good sense: LIRR officials said Monday that they would waive onboard purchase penalty fees for riders traveling from stations where ticket vending machines weren't working.
The directive came after some customers were hit with surcharges of as much as $5.75 to $6.50 for buying tickets from a conductor on a train, even when buying them at stations wasn't an option because of storm-related power outages.
Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council chairman Mark Epstein called the practice "outrageous."
Ninette Solis was charged a $6.50 penalty on top of her $13.50 ticket when she boarded a westbound train at Deer Park, where "all the machines were dead."
She was told by an LIRR customer service representative that she could apply by mail for a refund of the surcharge.
"It's beyond our control. They know what happened this weekend," said Solis, 40, a legal secretary. "They never give us a break."
LIRR president Helena Williams said conductors were following protocol, but she "agrees with customers" who think they were wronged.
And so, as of Monday, LIRR managers began informing train crews about stations without working ticket machines, and instructing them not to charge any penalty fees to customers who originate from those stations.
Anthony Simon, general chairman of the United Transportation Union, which represents LIRR conductors, said the LIRR has always had "a strict rule" about charging onboard fees, and said that making exceptions "is not easy."
Simon said he "could not be prouder" of his members for "answering the bell and getting the LIRR back up in an amazing way since the storm."