Saturday, March 24, 2007

"No service this evening"

This past Thursday night, as I was settling in to the coveted 'next to the door' spot on the 6:39PM train, I heard the announcement all commuters dread. As usual, its timing was perfection. Two minutes prior to that train's departure, a garbled statement was blurted out over the PA system, "There is no service to Forest Hills and Kew Gardens this evening." That was all it said, and with it, I knew that an adventure was about to begin.

As I left the train, I braced myself for the common scene of Crazy White Guy & Old Lady tag-teaming the conductor. I was not disappointed. As the Crazy White Guy railed on about unrelated grievances of years past, the Old Lady demanded why the LIRR didn't tell everyone sooner. Apparently, a recently disabled train prevented all other trains from stopping at the two stations. Eastbound? Westbound? No one knew. But the fact that the conductor could not explain that the LIRR could not have ever predicted to the Old Lady in advance that this was going to happen, made the situation explosive. As Old Lady kept the majority of the crew tied up, Crazy White Guy was at his finest. Perched on his mental soapbox and clearly enraged, he began screaming and spitting while staring at no one in particular. At this point, I decided to jump in.

Using soft yet stern talk of logic and common sense, I temporarily calmed the Crazy White Guy, which gave me just enough time to ask the conductor if we can take a train to Jamaica in order to take another one westbound to KG or FH. The conductor disappeared into her cabin to communicate with the dispatcher, but in doing so, abruptly shut her window to block the noise. Unfortunately, that gave Crazy White Guy a second wind, in which he demanded that she be fired while getting the rest of the commuters riled up. Again, I calmed him using everything short of dangling shiny objects in his eyes. That gave us just enough time for the conductor to come back with good news: another train was adding stops to accomodate KG and FH customers. Whew! The LIRR came through! However, this could have been handled much better.

I do not work for the LIRR, but I can bet that this was not a unique event. One would think that there are procedures in place that all but automate the response to such a situation, including coaching the crew on what to say and how to say it. Thinking from a commuters point of view, particularly one who lives on eastern Long Island, an announcement like that is tantamount to saying "you're screwed, find a hotel." How about saying, "Attention passengers for Forest Hills and Kew Gardens, due to a disabled train, the 6:39 will not be stopping at those stations. Please standby on the main level for further instructions, which will be announced shortly." Announcing that there is "no service" without any possible recourse puts people in panic mode.

I forgot to mention that while all this went down, a fellow commuter asked me what was going on. When I told him that the train was not stopping at FH or KG, he replied with a look that pretty much said, "Suckers". I'm sure that asshole lives off of exit 900 on the LIE and should have been more considerate. You know who you are.

Lessons learned for the LIRR: coach your staff on the 'what, when, and how' to communicate with customers. Most people understand that problems happen, but commuters that are wound up after a long day, with only one way to get home, react very badly to poorly worded announcements.


report from falloutshelter6 said...

hey i am with you 100% the LIRR SUCKS and today was no different as a man went into a seizure myself and a few other riders went into action and helped save this mans life the conductors stopped at jamaica and disappeared and MTA police showed up doing nothing there was no first aid kits or a defibillator or a small bottle of oxygen onboard or even at JAMAICA STATION! ems was slow and i sat checking this mans pulse for over 15 minutes when a genius cop decided lets put him on the platform! it was cool in the car as this man was burning up and they dragged this man out into 90 plus degree weather smart!assholes! i twqitter under liam_gibson/lirr-federated-train-riders or liam_gibson and twitter the constant break downs and daily crap we riders endure

Remus said...

drizzle today. that means lirr is 15 minutes delayed out of Penn. thanks for letting my connection leave Jamaica. the mta sucks up all our tax dollars and continues giving us progressively worse service. lirr sucks.

remus said...

let's announce track 17. then let everyone cram down onto that death trap of a platform. it is only 110 degrees down there. as 6:39 approaches and there is still no train in sight, let's announce last call. just another brutal end to our day. lirr sucks.

Commuter Devil said...

Great point regarding Track 17, and definitely worthy of its own post (thanks Remus!). I'm working on that now.

Remus said...

Do I even need to comment on this week from hell?

Can't resist. Constantly raising fares, tons of our tax money, and where does it go? Obviously not to 21st Century equipment. The RR is manually switching tracks because of a 10 minute fire. Great backup system. Don't we have high tech computer systems these days? Not the LIRR. LIRR sucks.