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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    The Little Engine That Doesn’t

    Going home for the weekend is common practice for students at Stony Brook University. The list of reasons for students to travel back home is indeed quite long: family, friends, free laundry. But one omission from that list is the commute. The Long Island Rail Road is the busiest commuter railroad in North America, and the platform at the Stony Brook station on Friday afternoons acts as evidence to that. But students are finding that the commute is less than stellar.

    Some of the many complaints involve issues with speed, frequency and price. To get from Stony Brook to Jamaica takes an hour and a half, to Penn Station an additional 25 minutes. Both trips when made by car take roughly an hour. One of the busiest trains, the 6:49pm to Penn Station, takes even longer than other trips into the city. When sophomore Jill Craver goes home, the difference in travel time is noticeable. ‘Its only a two and a half hour car ride but it turns into five hours, with [the LIRR] being the longest portion,’ she said of her commute to Orange County. Craver’s commute, like many who live in Westchester or Rockland counties, continues on the Metro North Railroad.

    And while similar issues arise with Metro North, the LIRR does not compare favorably with the similar sized commuter rail. From Grand Central Terminal to Peekskill, a town a similar distance from New York as from Stony Brook to Penn Station, the train takes between 56 and 64 minutes, almost a full hour less than the LIRR takes to cover the same distance. And the train runs at least every hour, sometimes even more frequently.

    The scheduling of the LIRR trains from Stony Brook is also an obstacle for many students. On Fridays, the train leaves roughly every hour and a half, with the two most populated trains being the 4:17pm and the 6:49pm. This can cause a problem for students taking afternoon classes. Craver described such a situation. ‘I had to take the train home and I had to miss class because it was one of the last trains I could have made to be on time to Penn [Station], she said. ‘If it was every hour it would be better.’ Students were puzzled when told that a more frequent schedule was already in place, but for Sundays. Between the hours of 2pm and 9pm, the busiest time for students leaving for home, the LIRR runs four trains to Penn Station on Fridays, but five on Sundays. The extra train leaves Stony Brook at 5:48pm, with the later trains pushed back a few minutes. Perhaps the complaints of timeliness would be diminished if the price for the train were substantially lower. Unless students are able to score one of a select few discount LIRR tickets provided by the USG, they pay $19 for a round-trip off peak ticket.

    Kelly Lang, a sophomore, echoed Craver’s description of the LIRR prices as ‘high.’ ‘Metro North is cheaper,’ she added. Again comparing the Stony Brook to Penn Station commute with the Peekskill to Grand Central one, that assessment holds true. A roundtrip Peekskill to Grand Central ticket is $1.50 cheaper than a ticket to Stony Brook from Penn Station. The response to the service of the LIRR was not all negative though. Freshman student Daniel Schwartz took a more positive stance on his trips to the Jamaica station in Queens. ‘I haven’t really had a problem. It’s pretty convenient. It’s 15 minutes from my dorm, it’s only an hour to get home, so I’m really happy that it’s on the Stony Brook campus,’ he said.

    Michael Yagudayev, a fellow freshman, also had no real qualms with the frequency of the train. ‘It fits perfectly into my schedule, when I have classes and when I can make it here without having to run,’ he said on line waiting to buy a ticket for the 4:17pm train. Whether students approve of the quality of service by the LIRR or not, all are in agreement that change would benefit the students at SBU. Many argue that the LIRR doesn’t do enough to satisfy the students at Stony Brook, and some even feel that the MTA shows a negligible lack of concern for what is consistently the most used station on the Port Jefferson branch. As Stony Brook continues to grow and attract top tier students, many are hoping that the LIRR and Stony Brook administrators negotiate a more friendly and efficient way for students to travel.

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