Watchdog: MTA Subway System Very Efficient; LIRR Not So Much

NYC Subway A Bright Spot In Otherwise Bleak Report

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — How does the Long Island Rail Road stack up compared to other major commuter railroads across the country? According to a just-released survey, not very well.

WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs in Mineola: Some Riders Blame Mismanagement

The newly-released findings by the Citizens Budget Commission, a fiscal watchdog group, cast the LIRR in a harsh light.

Among America’s ten largest commuter railroads, the LIRR ranked at or near the bottom in several factors.

The LIRR came in eighth out of ten for operating cost per mile of service, ninth for operating cost per vehicle, and in last place for operating cost per passenger.

The LIRR also ranked below average in two of the study’s other indicators.

To passengers, none of this comes as a surprise.

“Because they don’t want to do basic maintanece when it’s done, and it’s done on an emergency basis. That’s all you can expect,” said Barbara Cleveland of Queens.

“I don’t know how many hours I’ve lost at work on commute – how many thousands of dollars, just my work alone, would cost my company. I can’t imagine when you multiply it times the millions of riders,” said Andres Macchiavello of Glen Cove.

“Yeah, I’m so surprised. Nah man, absolutely not,” another passenger told CBS 2’s Jay Dow.

One customer even created a Facebook page in honor of the LIRR, or “The Late & Inefficient Railroad.”

Railroad officials did not dispute the study.

Various LIRR service disruptions, many of them storm-related, infuriated customers, who at one point were paying full, peak fares for limited service.

The LIRR did have some support, however.

“I think they have great service. They’ve canceled a lot of overnight trains due to budget deficiencies, but that’s like any place else,” said Jason Jeffers of Minneola.

Commuters said the real challenge was improving operations at Jamaica Station, one of the LIRRs largest hubs.

“Prices are going up. Trains are being canceled,” one rider said.

LIRR officials announced they’ll be completing a signal modernization project. It’s a major infrastructural improvement, but service will be disrupted this weekend, forcing customers to use a shuttle bus service.

The study also found the MTA’s bus operations were “relatively inefficient,” ranking last in three out of five cost indicators.

The one bright spot, however, was that the MTA’s subway system was the most efficient in the nation, operating with the lowest cost per passenger trip.

Is the LIRR really that bad? Do you have an LIRR horror story? Sound off in our comments section.

More from Mike Xirinachs

    I’ve been riding the wrong island rail road to work in Manhattan for 37 years and it just keeps getting worse and worse year after year and more and more expensive year after year.All those strikes they had years ago maded them the most overpaid workers in America.


      made, not maded.

  • John F

    I take the LIRR to work every day. I agree with many of the comments posted about the inefficiencies and poor quality of equipment (not the internals of the cars but the infrastructure). It seems every time there is a temperature change of 20 degrees or rain they have to cancel trains because of “equipment failure”.

    Back in 2007, I was able to purchase a monthly for $176 today it costs me $224. That’s a 27% increase over 3 years! Not only that, if I want to return a ticket they take a $10 fee regardless of the price of the ticket. So if I want to return a $7.25 off-peak ticket I have to PAY THEM $2.75. IDIOTS!!!

    The reason behind this is the fact that all these conductor’s (read “ticket punchers”) earn at least $75,390 a year. (Don’t believe me? See for yourself, choose MTA for Agency and then LIRR for subagency) The highest paid conductor earned $239,000. 43% earned over $100,000. Why cant the LIRR implement a system that almost all other countries and municipalities where you swipe to get on and swipe to get off. This would eliminate all the need for overtime and penalties…

    Also see this article for more details especially how 97% of LIRR retirees are on disability.

    The problem…..UNIONS!

  • Clive

    The LIRR is so bad that I actually mentioned it in the Acknowledgments of my first book, Crank It Up, which came out a few years ago: “Much of this book was written on an Apple iBook while commuting on the Long Island Rail Road. Accordingly, I am indebted to the LIRR for its many delays, which provided more than ample time to write.”

  • Auburn Dale

    Part of the problem is that the average train crew member (conductor or engineer) gets paid about double what the average passenger earns. Maybe somebody should get rid of expensive and outdated contract provisions like TWO DAYS’ PAY for any shift that includes both diesel and electric trains. Both types of trains use the same skill sets, whether it’s operating the train or punching tickets.

    • Deputy Dawg

      There is a vast difference between punching tickets and operating a train, and the reason for having the co-mingle penalty is account of where the trains originate. Forcing a crew from a motor job to an engineer job means the crew doesn’t get to finish up where they left their cars. That means they often don’t have enough time to get home and rest before their next assignment. Very few crews have 9-5, or more than 12 hours of rest, or weekends off, or holidays off.

      Most importantly, the MTA approves these contracts, and with good management would avoid these penalties. All overtime is at the pleasure of management, and this occurs if they want to run the trains, they usually have to pay OT. In fairness to them, their hands are tied by quotas and other laws that keep them from being able to effectively manage…

      • Auburn Dale

        If the crews finish up away from where they reported for work and parked their cars, then they should get a simple travel allowance (like subway crews) rather than a whole extra day’s pay.

  • Joe

    The LIRR is the most antiquated train service in the country. It is an embarrassment !! I pay $340.00 EVERY month to ride this joke of a commuting service. I’d like to know who’s pockets alot of this money is going into, because it is not going into their system !!!!!!!!!

  • Kathie


    • Bobby Jones

      Absolutely, and if you listen to LIRR Prez Helena Williams, the state of the railroad has never been better. Take a lool at last January’s snowy performance stats, 92% on time, and I’d like to buy a bridge. Trains are late, dirty, stinky, canceled, with sagging seats, patched with duct tape. All this service can be yours for $340/mo and rising fast. Helena Williams can put a shine on a turd.

  • Jimmy

    The problem with the LIRR is that they are lazy.

  • Frank M.

    Can someone please explain HOW the LIRR is allowed to Cancel trains during the snow. What’s next, cancelling trains because of rain, excessive heat, autumn leaves.
    The Management is grossly incompetent, but I think every rider who reads this already know this

  • Infomation From Friends and Family

    Explain why years ago the lirr ran more efficently in the past than it is today? That is because most of the management in charge today do not have the experience to be in the positions they are in. I know for a fact that people who applied for for some of these top positions where turned down not because they were not qualified but because they did not know the right people. As far as the unions at one time they were working for the workers. However, it appears that a small number of union officals are working with management to create some of these problems going on. The problem is most of these managers have not worked from the bottom up. I can not tell you how many of them do not know how the train works let alone know how to solve a simple problem to make the railroad run more effieciently. Look at all the workers who reley on the trains how they suffer along with all the hard workers of the mta who take there orders from these non knowing managers who know nothing about how the system works. Leaning it from a copy of manuals is alot different than being out there with hands on experience. Friends and family members have been keeping me abreast to all the situations that go on within this company.Hell I reley on the railroad too for work.

  • Jeffrey

    I find it very interesting to read this story. The LIRR is in the news all the time, for service disruptions or track issues, but the end result is “Let’s raise the prices for fares.” This is ridiculous. As the fares rise, there is still consistency is problems and lateness. This is not fair. The railroad should focus their attention on problems needing to be addressed instead of hiking fares. The MTA has more on their plate than they know what to do. Plus when they lay people off, they should not be laying off the ticket agents (who don’t make too much money) and let people in the corporate offices go (the ones who make more money). It’s funny how Metro-North does not have half the problems that the LIRR has and it owned by the MTA…food for thought.

  • Annoyed

    I have so many horror stories, I’d be here all day if I had to type them. The lIRR is truly a disgrace. Its turned into a cattle cart, the second the doors open 100s of people race in to find a seat in fear that they’ll be left standing against the door for over 30mins while still paying $10 for a PEAK ticket! I’m 7 months pregnant and almost every other day I have to deal with the anxiety and stress of cancelled trains (sometimes 3 or 4 in a row) during peak hrs forcing trains to be dangerously packed, leaving me standing by they door and then missing my bus home turning my commute into a living nightmare. You would think that since they are constantly raising prices service would improve but unfortunately its the complete opposite and quite frankly is day light robbery.

  • George

    I must be riding the ‘wrong’ trains because I can’t remember the last time I rode a late train. In fact, I’m always missing them because they are always on time. I agree the fares are a little absurd. You have to be careful with public opinion because to some a train would be considered late if it was 45 seconds late according to their watch. Patience plays into this too.

    • Frank M.

      Who are YOU related to in the MTA??????

    • drqns

      Late is late, be it 45 seconds or 45 minutes.

    • Kathie

      you can’t be serious.

  • joe commuter

    The LIRR is the worst.Not only is it never or rarely on time..they cars are uncomfortable and they smell awful.Yesterday i sat on a seat that was covered with duct tape. And can somebody tell me the reason for the 15 car 5;01 to Ronkonkoma? It is always empty and there is a 4:51 and a 5:23 WHAT IS THE POINT!!! the prices are absurd..and the service gets worse with each increase
    Unions are destroying this country

    • j

      the cars are built in pairs of 2 and yours had 15 do the math dodo

  • Kristen

    I grew up on LI and commuted on the LIRR. Moved to Jersey and commuted on NJT trains and buses. Now using a private bus company…. NO ONE HAS IT RIGHT!

  • Pi$$ed Off Long Islander

    Ha! The transportation infrastructure of this country is failing miserably and the LIRR is a prime example of this. Beside the facts that the railroad runs so poorly, lets look at the bigger picture of public transportation in the US as a whole. There is no incentive to use public transportation. I took my family of 3 to NYC for a Knicks game on a Sunday afternoon and the LIRR cost $9.75 each way per person. Total LIRR fare for the 3 of us, $ 58.50. I could have driven in, used $9 worth of fuel, toll at tunnel and a parking deal for $20 and saved. I would take Amtrak when I go away on the weekends, but it is cheaper to drive my big American Gas Guzzler, figure that out… LIRR keeps raising fares and reducing service, and the service that is provided is hugely lacking. They have us by the ball$ and they know it, that’s the problem. They are the only game in town and the government doesn’t care either. Long Island is and will always be a “ca$h cow” for any municipal and public services.

    • Pi$$ed Off Long Islander

      We need someone to step in and really analyze the LIRR and figure out what is wrong and how to fix it. Unions suck too! They are the downfall of this country now. The rider’s could try the usual banding together, boycott, revolt and not show conductors our tickets for a week or something, but the truth is that wouldn’t make a difference since they already have our money from Mail & Ride. Now if we really wanted to be sly, all the riders should organize and suspend our monthly Mail & Ride tickets for one month during the summer and then hassle all the conductors that come to check our tickets. Eventually, the conductors will cave and not want to deal with the riders. That would seriously dent their cash flow and maybe, just maybe shake them up a bit and wake up.


    I’ve been taking the Wrong Island Railroad to work in Manhattan for 37 years and it’s been getting worse and worse year after year.
    They USED to run the trains when it snows out – not any more !! I USED to be able to get a seat – not any more !! And the price has skyrocketed in the last few years. Thank God I’m retiring at the end of this year.

  • JulieC

    As a Long Islander, my biggest complaints for years have been the exorbitant fares and the fact that the LIRR doesn’t offer a family discount We’d love to take our four teens into the city on trips, but it costs us over $100 in train fares alone so we forebear.

    You’d think providing low-cost, efficient mass transit and plenty of bike paths would a TOP priority on this heavily congested island but somehow our mentally challenged politicians can’t figure that out.

    • drqns

      The LIRR does offer family discounts

  • Dan Ruppert

    My book, “The Gravy Train, An Inside Look at the Long Island Rail Road” presents an unflattering portrial of the LIRR. The workplace environment I witnessed during my nine years of employment is an insult to every taxpayer.
    IMy book explicitly spells out the problems within the LIRR. The politicians have failed to clean up the inept managment and a labor force of slackers and nepots. And llet’s not forget over 6 billion dollars in Capital Program Improvements has been invested in this bottomless pit.. It’s time to clean up the MTA – Money Thrown Away.

    • j

      dan was fired due to inappropriate mens room activity

    • k

      MTA – Moving trash around, more trouble ahead!

  • Adam

    If you had a ride on some of the commuter trains around Europe and you jump on an LIRR you think, “these trains are heavy, slow and inefficient”. Also, the fees are incredibly high. If a few people are heading to Manhattan for a day, it is cheaper to drive (even with gas prices where they are). How are you supposed to encourage people to take rail when it costs more?

    It’s years and years of little government regulation that created this mess.

    • jerry

      the problems on the lirr are not caused by government regulations. that is rubbish. the problems are caused by total inefficiency and poor management. on top of that all those workers who collect disability payments add to the high costs. as some who started riding the lirr in the mid 1950’s i can tell you it has come a long way but seems to be on the road backwards these days.

      • Michael H.

        Adam wasn’t blaming government regulations. He was blaming a severe lack of them.

  • Sean Quigley

    I have taken the LIRR for over 20 years and to me service has improved. I think the fee for buying a ticket on the train is legalized theft – its constantly being raised and is now ridiculous. I know there are machines or a manned office–so what–you treat a paying customer like that? That’s part of your job as a conductor, or should be.

    Also our politicians need to understand that mass transit is not supposed to run ata profit. Getting all the commuters to fill jobs, PAY TAXES, and patronize the myriad services in the city (food, clothing, shops of all kinds) more than makes up for any deficit. It’s poor overall management, as proven by having 2 years of surpluses then hyped up blaring doomsday scenarios of yawning deficits.

  • Justin

    None of you must have ever ridden NJ transit. If LIRR is worse than this, then hope is truly lost.

    Delays? you don’t know what delays are until you have tried NJ transit!!

    Slowness of trains? You have seen nothing until you have ridden NJ transit. Can you imagine a train traveling less than .5 miles an hour? So that a 30 mile trip takes 2 hours?!?!?!

  • Paul

    The prices are are continuously are going up and service are not improving. The price off Peak is as high as $8.25. Also the schedules are terrible in the Long Island Nassau part as the train does not run during late hours. However, if the prices were lowered, I do not think the LIRR is bad service and that could be due that I am not daily commuter and I use the train only during the weekends off peak.

  • Dave Malloy

    On top of regular delays and heavily interrupted service during times of inclement weather, the LIRR has gone ahead with a new $10 fee to return an unused ticket. They know many of us rely on Public Transportation in one of the most densely populated areas in the country, and they have found a way to turn it into a model of poor management and execution in services.

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