NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The MTA has started a communications blitz to warn commuters of a potential Long Island Rail Road strike that could come in just 11 days.
The agency said Wednesday it has print ads running in seven daily newspapers and radio ads airing on 11 stations, including 1010 WINS and WCBS 880.
“We continue to hope that we can avoid a work stoppage at the bargaining table,” MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast said in a statement. “But nevertheless, we want LIRR customers and all Long Island residents to be aware that there is a potential for a disruption of service and what that might mean.”
Prendergast was in Washington Wednesday to meet with members of the New York delegation to see if Congress planned to step in if an agreement is not reached by the July 20 deadline.
But with just 11 days left before a potential strike, Congress said it would not intervene in the contract dispute and urged both sides to resume negotiations.
The two sides returned to the bargaining table Tuesday, but failed to end their stalemate.
The agency also plans on alerting customers to service changes and information via email and text messages, digital signs at stations, and on social media.
If there is a walkout, the MTA is urging riders to use one of four options:
1. Work from home or stay with friends and family in the city.
2. Discuss telecommuting and/or flex time options with your employer.
3. Carpool with others
4. Use existing bus services provided by NICE, NYC Transit and MTA buses.
The MTA said it will also provide very limited shuttle bus service from designated parking lots in Nassau and Suffolk counties starting within 24 to 48 hours of any declared walkout.
Buses will then connect riders to subways in Queens. But, the MTA said there will be no weekend, off-peak or reverse commute shuttle bus service and said on its website that “shuttle bus service should be your last resort.”
The locations of the potential shuttle or ride sharing sites have not yet been released.
In the event of a strike, the MTA said commuters should expect severe delays and overcrowding on Long Island roadways, buses and subways in Queens.
Anthony Simon, head of the United Transportation Union, has said a strike could have nightmarish consequences for the Long Island commuting public.
“The MTA is pushing us towards a strike,” Simon said. “This could be the most devastating strike Long Island has ever seen, and yet the MTA will make that gamble.”
In response, Long Island lawmakers said the MTA’s plan so far sounds ineffective, CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reports.
“Congestion in the heat of the summer on the highways. Deliveries won’t be made. The economy will suffer,” said Nassau County Leg. David Denenberg.
Nassau County has offered the MTA parking fields for ride sharing, shuttle bus locations, and to adjust traffic lights to help with traffic flow, but if trains stop running county Executive Ed Mangano has a warning:
“We don’t have a comfort level that this will be anything short of disastrous for our citizens,” he said.
The strike would not only be disastrous for LIRR commuters, it would mean gridlock for all, according to AAA New York.
“People may drive all the way into Manhattan; they may drive into Queens, park, take the subway, creating congestion in the so-called outer boroughs. It’s going to be a very difficult situation indeed,” said AAA spokesman Robert Sinclair.
The union and the MTA have been far apart for months, failing to agree despite two separate proposals by a presidential mediation board. Federal mediators also attended Tuesday’s negotiations.
The sticking point appears to be pension and health benefits for new employees.
The MTA has offered workers a 17 percent raise over seven years, but would require them to pay toward health care costs. Currently, LIRR workers don’t contribute toward their health insurance at all.
The MTA proposal would also require new LIRR employees to contribute more to health care and pension costs than current ones.
“There was so many concessions to new employees, we just in good faith could not do it,” said LIRR union representative Christopher Natale.
The union has made a counteroffer, but the details of its proposal have not been released. Union leaders have blasted the MTA for making the details of their proposal public.
LIRR employees have been working without a contract since 2010.
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