LIRR riders left waiting in cold for erratic train service

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Queens commuter rail riders were left in a lurch for much of the aftermath of the blizzard of 2010, as Long Island Rail Road service ground to a halt Sunday night, only to slowly chug back to life Tuesday morning.

Late Sunday night the MTA suspended service on all LIRR lines, leaving hundreds of travelers lugging rolling suitcases, children and leftovers stranded in Penn Station, which was even more of a madhouse than usual at about 11:30 p.m. that night.

Their hopes were further dashed when the MTA kept all LIRR lines suspended until Tuesday morning, when it re-opened several heavily-traveled lines with very limited service.

Manhattan resident Linda Alban had no problem taking the train to Bayside to visit friends early Sunday, but she had to wait at the Bayside station more than two hours for a train back to the city Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s ridiculous. I’m freezing and I don’t know why two days later it’s still this delayed,” Alban said. “I thought it’d be better by now, especially since I checked the website and it didn’t say it was going to be two hours delayed.”

Full service had yet to be restored Tuesday afternoon, and a number of lines were still completely suspended, according to a statement on the MTA website.”

The MTA emphasized that it was working hard to restore service as quickly as possible under very difficult conditions and that it expected a “near normal AM rush” Wednesday, according to its website.

“Limited service is operating on several rail and subway lines this afternoon, following round the clock efforts by MTA crews to clear and remove up to two feet of snow from the tracks, crucial signals and switches that make up our rail infrastruc­ture,” read the MTA statement.

Trains on the Port Washington LIRR route, which carves a line across the northern reaches of Queens to connect Nassau County to Manhattan, began to travel westbound early Tuesday, but the first eastbound train left at 9:45 a.m., creating a mad dash of tired travelers when the marquee sign in Penn Station finallylit up to indicate it would be leaving from Track 15.

Once the train left the station, it sat partway between the Penn and Woodside stations for half an hour while waiting for a train to clear ahead, further delaying passengers, who repeatedly called bosses, colleagues and family members with updates.

Travelers waiting for eastbound trains Tuesday morning at the Woodside station complained about a lack of announcements and information about when a train would be arriving.

As the train pulled into the Woodside station at about 10:15 a.m., Marcela Duarte clapped her hands and jumped up and down. She had been waiting since 8 am for a train to take her to work in Great Neck.

State Sen.-elect Tony Avella called the LIRR’s failures “shocking and unacceptable” in a letter he wrote Tuesday to MTA Chairman and CEO Jay Walder.

“Hundreds of riders went to train stations only to be left standing on the platforms for more than two hours with absolutely no information forthcoming from LIRR officials,” the letter said.

Diana Kim grew up in Bayside, then lived in Manhattan until August, when she moved to San Francisco. She had been waiting 30 minutes at the Bayside station for a train into Manhattan to have dinner with a friend despite the service disruptions.

“Our plans are for six, but I don’t even know if I should go. I’m questioning it every second. I know I can get there, but I’m worried about getting back,” she said. “Really, I shouldn’t go. My parents are like, ‘what are you doing?’ I’m shocked .... The LIRR has been a big part of my life my whole life but I’ve never seen it this bad. I feel like it will only be like this for one day though.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 10:28 am, October 12, 2011
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