If no agreement is reached between unions and the MTA by Sunday, the Long Island Railroad will stop running, and the roughly 300,000 Long Islanders who make the daily commute to New York City will be left to find alternative means of transportation. That, or they’ll just be stuck on Long Island.
The MTA’s contingency plan for commuters, released last Friday, paints a grim picture. The plan’s foremost recommendation for Long Islanders is to stay home. “We have reached out to 1,400 employers across Long Island and the city to encourage their employees to telecommute if at all possible...we have commitments for at least 18,000 workers to telecommute,” MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast said in the release. Even if all 18,000 follow through and work from home, that’s still only 5 percent of the LIRR’s daily ridership.
For those who can’t telecommute, like doctors and nurses, things look even darker. The MTA will provide “350 buses that will shuttle customers from eight locations in Nassau and Suffolk counties to three major subway stations in Queens,” it said. The buses can accommodate 15,000 riders, the MTA said. That’s another 5 percent. But the buses will only run during rush hours, and only in the “peak direction of travel,” the MTA said. This means that if you don’t get off work before 7 p.m. or commute to Long Island, you’re out of luck, at least as far as buses go.
What other options are there? A ferry, for one. The MTA offered a free ferry service from Glen Cove, New York, to midtown, a trip which would take around 40 minutes. Not bad, except that the ferry can only accommodate 1,000 commuters per day, or about a third of 1 percent of all of Long Island’s commuters.
That leaves about 89 percent of Long Island commuters without many options. Those with cars can drive, but the MTA isn’t paying for commuters’ parking in the city, not to mention the fact that there probably aren’t enough parking spaces in all of New York City to accommodate them. The only other option for commuters is to take vacation, but many are hesitant to schedule days off until they know for sure whether the strike will happen.
The LIRR unions and the MTA tentatively plan to meet again this afternoon to resume discussions, LIRR Commuter Council Chairman Mark Epstein told Newsweek.