Friday, October 15, 2010

Jamaica Cutover: What if?

That's right, folks, it's time for another installment of What If?, where we look at some boneheaded move and ask, "What if the people in charge of this transit agency actually gave a fuck about their passengers?" The agency in question is the Long Island Rail Road, and really, can anyone think of a transit manager anywhere in the region who's done more to screw her passengers, transit advocates, and the people of New York than Helena Williams?

Back in August, you remember, there was a nasty fire in a 100-year-old switching board in Jamaica, that screwed up every LIRR rider's commutes for days, and I asked, what if the people in charge wanted to provide some redundancy to mitigate the effects of a disaster like this? Well, nobody's said boo about that, but a big irony that many people mentioned was that the switching board in question was almost ready to be replaced with a modern, computerized, centralized system.

Now it's time to do that replacement, and naturally, it's much easier to do that when the tracks are not actually in use. It makes sense that the Rail Road would run significantly reduced service. It just doesn't make sense how reduced their plans are. When I first saw the notice, I thought it must be some kind of joke. Especially this paragraph:
As a result of the extremely limited service, the LIRR advises that only customers traveling for essential business – such as first responders (police, fire) and service employees with no other alternatives – should use the LIRR during these two weekends. Customers traveling for recreational purposes during this period should consider travel on the Port Washington Branch or other travel alternatives.

Okay, seriously, what the fuck? If anyone thinks the LIRR is in it for the money, this should cure them of that illusion. If this were a for-profit business, its competitors would be salivating at the chance to snatch up disgruntled customers.

The notice is clearly written by someone who thinks that everyone on the island has cars, nobody but "first responders" actually needs to take the train, and weekend service is some kind of giant amusement park ride operated at great expense for people who are too lazy to drive themselves around. The idea that there are people who live or work within walking distance of a stop on the affected lines (all of which are more than a mile from the closest stop on the Port Washington Branch), and might not have an easy time driving themselves for one reason or another, seems utterly foreign.

During these two weekends, there will be no service at all on the Flatbush Avenue branch to Brooklyn, and no service between Jamaica and Mineola on the Main Line. There will be hourly service on the Long Beach and Babylon branches, with connecting service to Far Rockaway and infrequent diesels to the East End. There will be a weird hourly diesel-electric service that will express out to Babylon (but not stop), reverse over the old C.R.R.L.I. towards Bethpage (but not stop), and then go forward to Ronkonkoma (but not continue to Greenport).

There will be hourly buses from Jamaica to Mineola, where passengers can take electric shuttles to Huntington, connecting to a diesel shuttle to Port Jefferson, or a more infrequent diesel shuttle from Mineola to Oyster Bay. Every two hours, there will be a bus from Jamaica to Queens Village that will meet a shuttle to Hempstead. There will be no service on the West Hempstead Branch, but it turns out that there's been no weekend service on that branch for several months now.

There are several weird things about this. The most obvious is why they couldn't stop the Ronkonkoma diesel-electric express in Babylon, and time the Montauk trains to connect with it, shaving off some time for people going to the East End. Also, why not just reverse that train all the way to Hollis, and have a connecting train take people out to Ronkonkoma? Or have the diesel-electric express connect with a Ronkonkoma-Hollis train at Bethpage?

Another is that, given that it's weekend traffic and not beach season, why they couldn't have worked with a bus operator to run buses directly from Mineola into Penn Station and Downtown Brooklyn.

Instead, they just throw up their hands, say "Sorry!" and basically encourage anyone on Long Island with a car to drive into the city. I'm sure a ton of them will wind up on Queens Boulevard. Thanks, Helena Williams!

1 comment:

capt subway said...

NYCTA started the ball rolling on these kinds of "to hell with the passengers" general orders a good 15 -20 years ago. I know because I worked at NYCTA for almost 37 years. When I started this kind of thing would have been unimaginable. I personally worked upon huge projects, including "cutting in" new interlockings, such as is being done here in Jamaica, where trains continued to run, on a single track or some other type of diversion. It's truly disgrceful but now a-days it seems they can't clean garbage off the tracks without shutting down the whole line. And the riders have no one to defend them because many transit advocates, with no operating background, just don't understand what's going on so they are clueless as to how to protest. They just accept the TA's or LIRR's BS at face value.