NEW HYDE PARK, N.Y. (CBS 2) — There was a storm of protest – bordering on mutiny – from frustrated commuters Wednesday, furious that the LIRR charged them peak rates after cutting the number of trains in half due to weather.
“We hate the Long Island Railroad,” one commuter said.
“There’s a fight breaking out, practically, because no one can get on a train, and an empty one just went by,” said another.
There was nearly a revolt on the LIRR, as express trains passed right by many passengers-in-waiting without stopping, and many local trains were packed so full that people couldn’t squeeze in.
The commute was a mess, and all because the LIRR decided to cope with the storm by running a weekend schedule – railroad talk for running about one train an hour – and to add insult to injury, passengers had to pay peak fares.
“There’s no trains, and they’re running on a weekend schedule,” New Hyde Park resident Grant Brandeis said. “We’re waiting here for almost two hours now, it’s just unbelievable, and we’re still paying our $240 a month.”
The LIRR usually runs 143 trains between six and 10 a.m., but on Wednesday the number of trains was cut to just 75.
CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer asked to speak to LIRR President Helena Williams, but since she went to sleep after a long night at the controls, Kramer asked LIRR Vice President for Public Affairs Joe Calderone about the peak fares for reduced service.
“The fares are based on the time of day and the day of the week,” he said.
Calderone said the LIRR ran a weekend schedule to have time on the tracks to de-ice the third rail, so trains wouldn’t get stuck.
“Because we were on that weekend schedule, we were able to keep what they call ‘anti-freeze trains’, which spread a thin coat of anti-freeze on the third rail to try to keep it free of ice,” Calderone said.
Riders, however, weren’t buying it.
“I don’t think people should pay,” Linda Dove said.
“Peak fares should not be imposed today certainly. If anything, you should ride free,” Charles Carson said.
Although it won’t undo the morning’s frustration, the railroad said it was operating on a regular weekday schedule, with just a few cancellations, by Wednesday afternoon.