A summertime ‘rush hour from Hell’ is culminating in a lawsuit filed by New York City commuters against the MTA, Long Island Rail Road, and NYC Transit.
“We want the word out,” said a furious Meredith Jacobs to The New York Post. One of two leading plaintiffs in the suit, she said, “We want change, accountability, visibility and, quite frankly, we want what we pay for – and if we don’t get it, we want our money back!”
Jacobs, 48, is a sales executive from Long Island. She says she pays nearly $300 per month to commute along the LIRR from her home to Manhattan’s Penn Station.
Long Island Rail Road commuters have been complaining about lengthy service delays and repairs for four years. Jacobs says the last two have been especially bad, as stranded rush hour passengers were forced to wait along crowded tracks for trains which often arrived an hour late.
“This has been going on for four years, but the last two have been really bad,” she said. “We got two fare increases in two years, and service is at an all-time low.”
The other plaintiff, Long Island resident Fred Lee, joined in the suit, which alleges an infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and ‘breach of contract.’
Papers filed in the Nassau County Supreme Court say the action is being brought on ‘behalf of . . . all other individuals who regularly ride the Long Island Rail Road.”
“Penn Station is a mess, and we hope this lawsuit is the first step in cleaning it up,” said attorney Paul Liggieri, who filed the suit and is also a Long Island resident.
“There are thousands of commuters who want to join this suit,” he explained, saying once the court “certifies the action, everybody can join in.”
Much of the pain and emotional hardship endured by Manhattan commuters, like attorney Liggieri and sales executive Jacobs, is the result of rail work.
While the Long Island Rail Road is run and operated by the MTA, several of the tracks it uses are owned by Amtrak. The MTA has fingered Amtrak, blaming it for a “series of unacceptable infrastructure failures,” which have included delays as well as minor derailments.
“The increasing frequency of these failures leaves the clear impression that Amtrak is not aggressively maintaining its track, switches and related equipment at Penn Station and that repairs have not happened as swiftly as needed,” wrote MTA executives in a letter to Amtrak.
The lawsuit takes issue with the delays brought on by Amtrak’s apparent negligence, as well as the MTA’s failure to accommodate passengers crowded into stations and waiting precariously close to tracks.
Conditions quoted from the filing by The New York Post include passengers ‘begrudged’ to stand in unsanitary bathrooms and having to stand ‘shoulder-to-shoulder.’
The small coalition of attorneys and executives bashed the conditions they were forced to commute in, saying crowds and dirty restrooms “should not be tolerated in civilized society.”