This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.
This is a little off-topic for this blog, but every transportation writer loves to generalize from personal experience, and I’m no exception.
One of those workers, a Long Island Rail Road conductor who retired in April, made $239,148, about $4,000 more than the authority’s chief financial officer, according to payroll data released on Wednesday.
In fact, more than a quarter of the Long Island Rail Road’s 7,000 employees earned more than $100,000 last year, including the conductor, Thomas J. Redmond, and two locomotive engineers — who were among the top 25 earners in the entire transportation authority.
Now, that’s a bit misleading. Half that $239K was in cashed-out vacation and sick days. Still, the LIRR guys make a lot of money. Now, I for one don’t begrudge civil servants making good wages, and certainly it’s not cheap to live in New York.
The challenge, I think, is that these high operating costs are high at a time when the system needs to expand service and attract more riders. Ridership on the LIRR has increased a bit in recent years, but it still serves fewer riders than in 1949, a time when the regional population was much smaller than it is today. I noticed recently that the station near the house I grew up in had just 250 boardings per day in 2006.
However, Long Island does have all these interesting assets, including 700 miles of mostly grade-separated track and walkable downtown villages around many of the stations. What it lacks, however are:
- a way to move people around Long Island, and not just into & out of New York City,
- service to Long Island’s exurban office parks, where Nikon, Cannon, and Computer Associates all have large US headquarters, and
- most importantly, residents who are willing to allow multi-family(!) housing around those downtown stations
Attempting to solve these problems is the noble goal of the Build a Better Burb project, which I wholly endorse. Long Island has moved from being a bedroom community for New York City to being an employment center in its own right, and it will be interesting to see it rebuild itself around that idea.