I am an enthusiastic rider of the LIRR whenever it serves my transportation needs. Riding oftentimes with my bicycle on board I take it to see my Aunt in Lindenhurst, my grandmother in East Meadow or into the city to spend an evening with my girlfriend(who rides NJ Transit in from NJ.)
I see the LIRR as an institution to be proud of on Long Island, especially when you consider how a vibrant commuter railroad with as much off peak and weekend service as it has, is foreign to much of our country. It might seem odd that I speak of a transportation resource which is not in Hauppauge, yet it is at most 3 miles or 10 minutes to a nearby station by car, which practically makes us a railroad suburb.
A sequence of news items within the past few weeks have painted the role of the railroad in the daily lives of Long Islanders as increasingly tragic. These items were Metro-North surpassing the LIRR in the number of riders over the past year (82 million to our 81 million), the potential plan to bring Metro-North into Penn Station and the continued outcry against the metropolitan commuter mobility tax (payroll tax/MCMT).
Respecting our loss of ridership and the plans for Metro-North, I think even given the tough economic times that are beset upon the island, there are limited excuses why Metro-North - whose service population and quality of service is less than our own - should be outstripping the LIRR. As tragic as it is, if we fail to utilize the LIRR for the tremendous transportation resource that it is, we deserve to potentially lose service at Penn Station to Metro-North. Ideally, we should be seeking projects like the present Ronkonkoma Hub project at all LIRR stations throughout the island to build our own ridership base and justify increased future service levels.
Additionally, the presence or absence of the MCMT should have little to do with waste or inefficiency in the MTA, but the consistency of its revenue and the quality of service throughout the region. All of the MTA's funding sources prior to the MCMT were intensely variable based upon the economic climate, and stood to harm the system to the point where it would not provide a cost effective travel alternative to hard pressed Long Islanders during tough times, something called the vicious spiral of transit that typically in hard economic times when ridership increases, transit funding decreases. I say this as a Long Islander who supports comprehensive reform, increased public accountability and the enhanced provision of service in Suffolk County.