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Morning Spew

Must Be Nice to Be a Long Island Commuter

Attention must be paid, and more links to start your day.

9:05 AM EST on March 7, 2023

East Side Access under construction. (Hell Gate)

There's no more catered-to constituency than the Long Island mass transit commuter. 

Is your nice rail line experiencing some delays? No problem, we'll add a few more tracks for you, at a cost of $2.5 billion. Is the transfer you have to make from Penn Station to the subway to backtrack to the East Side a bit too long for your tastes? Here's a massive new underground terminal, for $11.6 billion. 

Oh wait—you actually don't want that? Don't worry, we're on it!

It must be nice to be a Long Island commuter, relentlessly looked-out for by New York's governors, who sometimes claim to not control the MTA, unless it involves our precious Long Island Rail Road users. Then they definitely control the MTA. 

Since Grand Central Madison opened for full service to and from Long Island last week, things have not been going well. Overcrowded platforms. Delayed trains. Missed connections. Long waits for the next train. Sprinting to jam into an overcrowded train for fear of having to wait a half hour for the next one. Does this all sound familiar? Does it, perhaps, sound like the experience of taking the subway (which, by the way, averages 3.5 million riders each day versus LIRR's 226,100 riders)?

But unlike the mole people of New York City, whose issues with the subways are constantly waved off by MTA leadership, and who are now being told they might have to pay even more money for the same service (or soon, maybe even worse service), riders on Long Island are being given full emergency-mode care. Governor Kathy Hochul almost immediately issued a new schedule meant to alleviate week-old problems, and last week, the head of the MTA expressed deep contrition, something rarely ever done for long-suffering subway riders. The media is offering round-the-clock coverage of the indignities facing Long Island commuters. 

This is not at all to bash those on Long Island or deep Queens who choose to do the right thing and take the train to the city. Nor is it to inveigh against projects that aim to increase capacity along rail lines (which is much-needed to support the tons of housing we'll definitely be building out on Long Island). 

It is simply to point out a very clear double-standard that runs along socioeconomic lines, where subway riders are constantly treated with hostile indifference, and those who take a commuter line from a wealthier place are being told that help is on the way, no matter the expense. 

In a just world, we'd all be Long Island commuters, seen as a key driver of the state's economic engine (who else will buy $15 salads in Midtown!), and treated with urgency and attention.

Instead, last week, the head of the very same MTA—the agency in charge of instituting congestion pricing in Manhattan to alleviate traffic in the city, reduce pollution, and pay for those projects needed to make the subways better—belittled the urgency of congestion pricing in front of the state legislature. It'll maybe happen late next year. 

Some links to start your day as you meditate on intra-county comity: 

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