Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bad Moon (and fares) Rising

I could be missing it, but I've not seen much press lately on the all-but-approved fare hike for LIRR commuters coming this January. Up to 9.4%! Inflation is currently estimated at around 2% annually for 2010, which makes this proposed fare hike potentially more than FOUR TIMES that of this year's inflation. Let's also keep in mind that we just came off a 2009 fare hike when inflation was...uh...oh that's right, we had deflation in 2009.

I understand that rising costs are not solely attributable to inflation, so what are the other things? There are two major capital projects: east side access and the third track along the main line. Please someone correct me if I'm wrong on this but I read that the current number of trains accessing Penn will remain as-is (about 37 per hr) and 24 new trains will be added to the new east side access. I have a couple of very simple questions? 1) Does this mean I will have more train times to choose from for my commute?, 2) If so, when are they and will every station benefit?, 3) If not, then WTF?!

Unless I see a schedule in 2014 (the current, but most likely, highly overestimated completion date for the project) that shows a few more trains in my morning and evening rush, then why am I footing the bill for the increase? So someone in the Hamptons gets more express trains on Friday and Sunday evenings? As a matter of fact, why do I even have to wait until 2014? You would think that an enormous, multi-billion project would have had that all covered before deciding to proceed. For example, will there be increased ridership, how much and at what stations?

The current costs of the project are estimated to be $6.3B...more than DOUBLE the previous estimate of $3B. What were the project people saying when they discovered this gross underestimate? I'm going to take a guess on this, but I think it went something like this: "Oh crap, we forgot to add the costs of the new tracks! Do you think we really need any?" I'm not a professional estimator, but I think anyone that underestimates that much, and by that magnitude, deserves to get fired. After all, that's your damn job. Its not like they asked the switch worker to do it....or did they. I know my ass would be out the door if I screwed up that badly on my job.

By the way, I just found the east side access project overview on the LIRR website:

Phase 1: raise fares
Phase 2: raise fares again
Phase 3: open new station
Phase 4: profit
Optional Phase 5: build new tracks

I wish my job were that easy.