LIRR commuters reflect and prepare for the ‘Summer of Hell’

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A Long Island Rail Road train pulls into the Great Neck station. (Photo by Adam Lidgett)

In the final countdown to renovations at Penn Station set to begin on July 10, LIRR riders are trying to prepare for the best, the worst, and somewhere in between.

Many commuters expressed concern that the renovations, set to address long-term neglect of Penn Station, will cause more frustration than usual. But many also saw a silver lining and suggested the “summer of hell” may not, in fact, be a “summer of hell.”

The renovations, taking place from July 10 to Sept. 1, will close three of Penn’s 21 tracks. To compensate, the MTA has added 36 extra train cars, three new trains, 200 coach buses, two ferries and fare reductions for some commuters.

The announcement had come in wake of a long series of woes like signal problems, train derailments, delays and suspensions that many LIRR commuters have become familiar with.

“I’m kind of waiting and seeing,” said Alison Kohler, a commuter from Baldwin who works in public affairs. “I’m imagining the people who insist on coming and going from Penn are going to have a headache.

Kohler normally commutes into the city thrice a week an hour and a half each way. She said she considers herself lucky though, because her boss and job can be flexible.

“She’s basically leaving it up to me, which I’m very grateful for because I know a lot of employers are not nearly as understanding,” Kohler said.

“If it’s extended more than half an hour each way, I’m going to throw in the towel and stay home,” Kohler added.

 

Ali Fadil, a Long Beach resident, said his typical commuting mantra is “whatever works best for me that day.” Sometimes this means driving to Babylon, Port Washington or Manhasset for better service.

But compared to where he used to live, other travel methods simply aren’t advertised.

“Frankly, if I could go back to living in Queens again, I would at this point,” the real estate agent and law school student said.

Andrea Krull, another commuter, struck a stronger tone. She said that there have been communication issues and that some train conductors are confused. Additionally, she said the discounts do not benefit uptown and midtown riders, who will likely see crowded trains and longer commutes.

“The LIRR sucks and has us trapped with no other choice so they don’t have to care about our quality of life,” Krull said via email. “I pay $297.00 a month with two increases over two years. Where is all our money going to?”

“This will definitely be the summer from hell,” Krull added.

Paul Rizzi, who works downtown in the financial district, is actually benefiting from the repairs. He said he intends to take the LIRR to Atlantic Avenue and taking the subway uptown rather than downtown.

“By taking the train to Atlantic Avenue, I am also saving $70 and with that extra $70, I can buy a metrocard without having to spend extra money,” Rizzi said. “I wish this was the case every month.

Then there are commuters like Jim Temple, who said he intends to deal with whatever gets thrown at him.

“I am making no changes to my commute. They posted an adjusted schedule,” Temple said. “Next week will probably have a couple bad days but it will settle in.”

“For the most part, people are overdramatic about it,” he added.

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