Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cost of Leaving - Long Island that is

The Long Island Rail Road made some drastic cuts in service and schedule this week in order to close a huge budget deficit they caused by their own stupidity and horrible management.
Having said that (I hate that phrase) the time has come to attempt the needed fix and the easiest way to start that journey is on the backs of the ridership.
Regardless of which side of the tracks you live on having to fork up more cash for less service can easily derail a formerly good day.
Ultimately when a business of any kind needs to make more money they have two choices, cut costs or raise prices.
However for a service company such as the LIRR doing either goes directly to the bottom line, but doing both is like main-lining.
Luckily the geniuses at the LIRR have not gone whole hog switching over to a pari-mutuel system of charges like they do at another mismanaged government operation, the Off Track Betting Corporation, OTB.
Assuming a one-way ride from Babylon into Manhattan costs the railroad $10,000 (total fiction) and they wish to have a hefty profit of $5,000.  They charge the 1000 passengers on the train $15 each.
Now assume the same trip is made during a less crowded time period and only carries 500 passengers.  The railroad would have to charge each rider $30 to make the same amount.
Of course with my luck I’d be the only jerk on the train and be asked to fork over all $15,000 by myself.
You would sit in the waiting room at your local station waiting for a more crowded ride watching the odds change for an affordable trip into the Big Apple.
But the pricing schedule is far more complicated than that and includes all types of fares even ‘un’ ones.
The other side of the coin is that many of the cuts should have been made years ago.  Train schedules are not written in stone and should be altered with shifting ridership.  Someone at the LIRR was asleep at the switch.
Personally I rode on many trains where the workers outnumbered the passengers.
Of course the trains must get to the other end of the line in order to carry riders back.  The practice known as 'dead-heading' is used by the airlines.  Many trains will therefore be fairly empty but there are always alternatives.
Since they have similar problems the LIRR should take its cue from the Airline industry.  No I don’t want them to start charging for carry-on bags but they should utilize their hub at Jamaica a little better.
Having trains stop and turn around at that active station would create a sort of shuttle into Penn Station that could operate more frequently than the longer rides heading ‘out east.’
Many riders would complain that they had to get up or rather wake up in order to switch at Jamaica but they would get over the inconvenience when they realized the savings.
Before making any cuts the head of a company always says “Nobody wants to see anyone lose their job but…”  That is PC speak for, “We have to fire someone so I can keep making obscene amounts of money.”
Of course without knowing the exact amount of money the top people are pulling in at the LIRR or Metropolitan Transit Authority, MTA it is hard to rail against them.  But it is easy to realize that their salaries added to all the perks and benefits and healthcare and retirement incentives they receive make the job a very lucrative and desirable one.
Frankly they’re doing a heck of a job!
So isn’t it time they started to do better?
But the shame is when those at the top make all the wrong decisions it is the loyal workforce and customer that gets thrown under the bus, or train for that matter.
At the end of the day (I hate that phrase also) it is always the little guy that gets the raw deal, the wrong end of the stick, the higher priced ticket.

No comments: