LIRR FAIR HIKE?

A recent report by the New York state comptroller revealed that the railroad’s on-time service is the worst it’s been in almost two decades. But, the MTA is still looking to raise fares. Now, elected officials vow to put the brakes on that plan until on-time performance and customer satisfaction improves.

Aired on September 19, 2018.

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING, WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

THANKS FOR JOINING US, I'M JACK FORD.

FOR COMMUTERS USING THE LONG ISLAND RAILROAD THEIR COMMUTE WHICH OFTEN COMES WITH DELAYS WILL SOON ALSO COME WITH A LARGER PRICE TAG.

IN AN ANNOUNCEMENT LAST MONTH, THE LIRR CONFIRMED ITS PLAN TO GO FORWARD WITH A 4% FARE INCREASE EARLY NEXT YEAR.

BUT COMMUTERS AND LAWMAKERS AREN'T ALL ON BOARD WITH THE TAIR HIKE, ONE OF THOSE ISLANDERS WHO IS MOST VOCAL IS STATE SENATOR ELAINE PHILLIPS WHO IN A LETTER ASKED THE RAILROAD TO, QUOTE, STEP UP ITS GAME BEFORE STEPPING UP ITS PRICES AND SHE JOINS US NOW TO TALK ABOUT THIS.

SENATOR, WELCOME TO YOU.

NICE TO HAVE YOU HERE WITH US.

LET ME START OFF THIS CONVERSATION, IF I CAN, WITH AN AUDIT THAT WAS DONE BY THE COMPTROLLER, AND CLEARLY THERE WERE SOME SIGNIFICANT FINDINGS IN THAT AUDIT.

GIVE US A SENSE OF ONE OF THE ONES -- SOME OF THE ONES THAT YOU THOUGHT WERE MOST SIGNIFICANT.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME HERE TODAY.

THIS IS AN EXTREMELY IMPORTANT ISSUE.

SO THE COMPTROLLER DID AN AUDIT.

HE FOUND THAT 21,000 TRAINS LAST YEAR WERE LATE.

YOU KNOW, WHEN YOU LOOK AT PRODUCTIVITY OF THAT, IT COSTS BUSINESSES $75 MILLION IN PRODUCTIVITY, BUT BEYOND THAT, THINK OF ALL THE PARENTS THAT WERE LATE FOR GAMES OR THE NANNIES THAT COULDN'T GET BACK TO THEIR HOMES BECAUSE THEY HAD TO STAY.

SO THIS REALLY IMPACTS PEOPLE IN SO MANY DIFFERENT WAYS.

I WILL TELL YOU OF THOSE 21,000, HALF OF THEM WERE A TRAIN LINE THAT IS IN MY SENATE DISTRICT, THE PORT WASHINGTON TRAIN LINE.

SO HALF OF THE TRAINS OVER A COURSE OF A YEAR WERE LATE.

THAT'S ALMOST AN INCOMPREHENSIBLE NUMBER WHEN YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT 21,000.

WHAT SORT OF FACTORS WERE GIVEN TO EXPLAIN -- NOT EXCUSE, BUT TO EXPLAIN THESE EXTRAORDINARY DELAYS?

YOU KNOW, THERE'S ALL KINDS OF FACTORS.

SO OBVIOUSLY WEATHER-RELATED ISSUES, A LOT OF IT HAS TO DO WITH THE SWITCHES AND THE TRACKS THEMSELVES.

LOOK, THERE ARE ALWAYS GOING TO BE SITUATIONS WHERE THERE'S EMERGENCIES, A PASSENGER GETS SICK, AND WE UNDERSTAND THAT.

COMMUTERS UNDERSTAND THAT.

BUT THAT'S NOT THE TYPE OF ON TIME PERFORMANCE THAT WE AREN'T GETTING NOW.

YOU KNOW, FOR YEARS I WAS A COMMUTER AND I RELIED AS A MOTHER, A WORKING MOTHER OF THREE YOUNG CHILDREN, I RELIED ON THE RELIABILITY OF THE LONG ISLAND RAILROAD AND I HAVE TO SAY WHEN I WAS COMMUTING, I HAD GOOD ON TIME PERFORMANCE, BUT IN THE LAST COUPLE YEARS THAT HAS GONE DOWNHILL SIGNIFICANTLY.

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?

BECAUSE I'VE HEARD THAT BEFORE, PEOPLE SAYING THAT IT HAD A HISTORY OF RELIABILITY, BUT ALL OF A SUDDEN THE BOTTOM HAS FALLEN OUT FROM IT.

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?

I THINK IT'S THE REINVESTMENT IN THE INFRASTRUCTURE.

YOU KNOW, WE'RE TRYING TO DO A LOT OF PROJECTS RIGHT NOW, WE HAVE EAST SIDE ACCESS, WE HAD THE SECOND TRACK THAT WAS BEING DONE, WE HAVE THE THIRD TRACK THAT'S GOING THROUGH MY SENATE DISTRICT, WE HAVE POSITIVE TRAIN CONTROL.

SO THERE IS A LOT OF VARIABLES THAT ARE PULLING AT THOSE PURSE STRINGS OF THE LONG ISLAND RAILROAD.

AND, LOOK, I AM A FIRM BELIEVER THAT LONG ISLAND IS ABSOLUTELY DEPENDENT ON A 21st CENTURY INFRASTRUCTURE AND WE HAVE TO MAKE INVESTMENTS.

YOU KNOW, ADDITIONAL INVESTMENTS IN OUR INFRASTRUCTURE, BUT FIRST AND FOREMOST WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE WHAT WE HAVE RIGHT NOW IS OPERATING EFFICIENTLY.

SO WHAT, THEN, WOULD YOU SAY TO THE RAILROAD FOLKS WHO SAY, ALL RIGHT, WE ACKNOWLEDGE THESE PROBLEMS, BUT ONE OF THE REASONS WE NEED THIS FARE INCREASE IS TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY, IMPROVE THE INFRASTRUCTURE.

WHAT'S THE ANSWER TO THAT?

RIGHT.

I THINK THE ANSWER TO THAT IS, LOOK, THAT'S NOT THE WAY PRIVATE BUSINESS OPERATES.

YOU DON'T GET TO RAISE YOUR PRICE OF A CAR WASH IF YOU HAVE POOR SERVICE, RIGHT?

YOU DON'T GET TO DO THAT.

PEOPLE LEAVE AND GO FIND ANOTHER CAR WASH.

WELL, IN THIS CASE WE CAN'T GO AND FIND ANOTHER MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION OR THE OTHER MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION AND WE'VE SEEN THAT HAPPENING ON THE LONG ISLAND RAILROAD IS TO GET IN YOUR CAR AND DRIVE, AND THAT'S NOT WHAT WE WANT TO DO.

AS YOU KNOW AS A LEGISLATOR QUITE OFTEN MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC WILL POINT FINGERS AT THE LEGISLATORS AND SAY, ALL RIGHT, YOU INTO HE HAD TO FIX THIS.

IS THIS SOMETHING THAT THE LEGISLATION -- THAT LEGISLATION OR THE LEGISLATURE CAN ACTUALLY DO TO STEP IN AND HAVE AN IMPACT ON THIS?

SO LET ME TELL YOU WHAT I'VE DONE.

WHAT I'VE DONE IS WRITTEN A LETTER TO ALL THE 22 BOARD MEMBERS OF THE MTA AND MR. LODA HIMSELF AND I HAVE ASKED THEM TO SERIOUSLY RECONSIDER RAISING FARES UNTIL THE SERVICE IS AT THE LEVEL WHERE IT SHOULD BE.

I AM ALSO WORKING ON LEGISLATION RIGHT NOW TO HELP THEM ACHIEVE YOU WILL SEE A RELEASE IN THE NEXT TWO WEEKS FROM US, I'M GOING TO NEED ASSEMBLY SUPPORT, AND I BELIEVE I HAVE THE GOVERNOR'S SUPPORT.

THE GOVERNOR IN HIS DEBATE THE OTHER DAY, A QUESTION WAS ASKED ABOUT DELAYING THE FARE INCREASE UNTIL THE ON TIME PERFORMANCE WAS BETTER AND HE SAID HE THOUGHT -- HE THOUGHT THAT WAS A GOOD IDEA.

SO I HOPE HE STAYS WITH THAT AND SUPPORTS THIS LEGISLATION THAT I WILL BE COMING OUT WITH.

WELL, STATE SENATOR ELAINE PHELPS, I WANT TO THANK YOU AGAIN FOR JOINING US.

THIS IS AN ISSUE, AS YOU SAID, THAT IS SO IMPORTANT, SO SIGNIFICANT TO SO MANY PEOPLE WHO ARE COMMUTERS.

AND OUR HOPE IS WE WILL GET YOU BACK AND TALK A LITTLE BIT MORE AS THIS MOVES DOWN THE LINE, SO TO SPEAK.

GREAT.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

THANK YOU AGAIN.

PLEASURE.

TALK TO YOU SOON.

YOU BE WELL.

OKAY.

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