NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Long Island Rail Road is asking customers who take the Friday afternoon Cannonball express train from Penn Station to limit oversized luggage.
The LIRR says it will designate some storage areas on the Cannonball for luggage, but said no luggage will be permitted in aisles or doorways. The upper and lower level seating areas also have overhead luggage racks, the LIRR said.
“We’re not going to let you keep it in the aisle, it’s just not gonna happen,” LIRR spokesman Salvatore Arena told CBS2’s Dave Carlin.
CBS2 exclusively exposed the cramped conditions on Monday night. Some trains are so packed that passengers are forced to sit on suitcases or in the aisles.
“A picture is worth a thousand words and there’s no question that video had impact. So we knew we had to respond in some fashion,” Arena said.
The request from the LIRR comes after federal regulators spoke with rail road officials about possibly dangerous overcrowding conditions on the train, which travels from Penn to the Hamptons and Montauk.
The regional safety manager for the Federal Railroad Administration met with the vice president of operations for the LIRR to discuss commuter complaints and safety concerns related to overcrowding. They visited five stops along the LIRR.
In a statement, the FRA said the meeting was “to discuss solutions to the problem of overcrowding, which can be a concern as it relates to the ability of people to move from one car to the next in the event of an emergency.”
The Friday, 4 p.m. Cannonball express train on the Montauk Line consists of 12 cars, three of which are reserved seating only, which leaves 1,046 seats in the unreserved section.
According to the LIRR there were 1,540 customers on board on Friday, Aug. 7. That left 494 people standing between nine cars, or about 55 extra people per car.
Now, the bag size restrictions have some riders seeing red. They say the LIRR appears to be blaming them, specifically their luggage.
“Smaller bags? No, I think they should just make more trains. People gotta pack their stuff, that’s not going to change,” said one rider.
Riders want more service, requesting that additional cars be added to popular transit times.
The LIRR said the Cannonball is one of 10 Friday trains to Montauk.
The LIRR said it cannot add more cars to the train or run additional express trains because of equipment and scheduling limitations and sometimes must limit boarding at Penn Station before the Cannonball leaves.
“We certainly hope that everyone who wants to board the Cannonball can do so,” LIRR President Patrick A. Nowakowski said in a statement. “If our customers leave oversized items at home, more of them will be able to enjoy a ride to the Hamptons in under two hours. We need everyone’s cooperation to make this work.”
Spokesman Arena: “We’ll have to keep people from getting on if it reaches that situation.”
Carlin: “If people are aware of this crackdown, won’t there be even more of a rush when the track number comes up to jam onto the train? Could it create a worse situation?”
Spokesman Arena: “I don’t believe so. We’ll have enough staff down there. Plus we have the ability to keep folks upstairs if necessary. To keep them from all coming down at one time.”
In a previous statement, the LIRR said it “would never permit any train to leave Penn Station if it believed the crowding was unsafe. No one is forced to board the train and if a customer feels the Cannonball is too crowded, he or she can take any one of the numerous Montauk-bound trains leaving Penn Station or Hunterspoint Station in Queens all day and all night on Fridays.”