Schumer calls for LIRR rider bill of rights

October 10, 2011 3:14:56 PM PDT
If only every day could be like a holiday for the Long Island Railroad.

Platforms would be wide open. Trains empty. Nothing like the horror stories Nassau County rider John Zimeryka knows all too well.

"It's been getting worse every year," he said.

The past year has been miserable for riders of the nation's busiest railroad, suffering everything from blizzards to fires to hurricanes.

Most recently, a lightning strike fried the multimillion dollar system that controls busy Jamaica station, forcing trains to a dead stop at the height of the evening rush and stranding hundreds of people on almost a dozen trains.

New York Senator Charles Schumer says he's had enough. He's calling on the railroad to develop a commuters' bill of rights, which would promise better communication during delays, establish a maximum amount of time the railroad people would be stranded on board and require all trains to carry water on board, offering it to passengers during a delay.

If the LIRR fails to meet these rules, he thinks passengers should get their money back.

"We want this to have real teeth, so that if the LIRR agrees with it, there are some real teeth in it should they not comply a year from now or two years from now," Schumer said.

The railroad has admitted over and over that it has a massive communication problem. Among other problems, digital signs can't be updated in real-time during times of major delays.

The MTA recently approved an additional three million bucks to improve the system, but commuter advocates say it still has a long way to go.

"Communication is key for the riders. You can't stop the lightning, but you can at least tell people what their options are," Schumer said.

In a written statement, LIRR did not endorse Schumer's idea for a commuters' bill of rights, but pledged to work with the senator to improve its customer communications. The statement said, "We must do better."


Sen. Charles Schumer: