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City's smallest train sporting biggest growth

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City's smallest train sporting biggest growth

By Matthew Sweeney

amNY.com

May 18, 2008

 

[float=right]39011474-18164831.jpg[/float]It's the city's smallest train line, but ridership on the Staten Island Railway is growing faster than any other subway or bus line in the system.

 

Rising fuel prices, improvements to the 14-mile line, a $5 toll on Verrazano Bridge for borough residents, and traffic congestion have all led to a nearly 20% increase in riders over the last two years -- the largest gain in the MTA system, according to Staten Island Rail (SIR) chief John Gaul

 

A bartender, who only wanted to be identified as Kevin, at Lee's Tavern, just off the Dongan Hills station, said he estimates the train saves him at least $80 a month in gasoline on local trips.

 

"It's always on time and it's better than having to get aggravated with the idiots out there driving," Kevin said of the rail, which goes from the Staten Island Ferry to Tottenville on the southern tip of the island.

 

It's shabbier than most rails because the cars -- left-over A trains from the 1970s -- are some of the oldest in use. But beginning this summer, the cars will start getting new interiors, Gaul said. While some riders complained yesterday that the train was dirty, they all said they liked that it ran like clockwork. Its scheduling is coordinated around the Staten Island ferry.

 

"It's faster than the bus," said Pearl Asumaning, 23. She said she lives just a few minutes from the Grasmere station but had forgotten there was a train line until a couple of months ago.

 

One of the improvements was to add express service in the rush hour, making a 30-minute trip from the end of the line to the ferry.

 

While the 20% increase is the largest in the system over the last two years, the number of riders is small. In February 2008, the most recent statistics available, an average of 16,000 weekday riders a day took the railway, up from 14,000 in February 2007. Subway weekday ridership, meanwhile, has increased about 4% over the last year.

 

"We're still not Lexington Avenue, believe me," Gaul said.

 

Currently, unlike the filled-to-capacity subway lines on Lexington Avenue or Queens Boulevard, the SIR can handle another 25% increase.

 

The passenger railway, which is the oldest in New York City and dates back to the B&O Railroad operation in the 19th century, was in decline from the late 1980s until 2004, Gaul said.

 

The railway used to run with tickets and conductors who walked up and down the cars collecting tickets. But the introduction of the MetroCard meant there was no need for ticket takers on the train. And because fares are only collected with a MetroCard swipe at the ferry terminal, bored teenagers took to riding the rails for free all day. The SIR gained a reputation for being a little wild, Gaul said.

 

"It did attract more in the way of joy ride use, vandalism, kids acting up and threatening other passengers," he said.

 

The police have cracked down and there are plans to install live streaming video in off-hour waiting areas for passenger protection.

 

Another oddity of the line's fare collection is the local tradition of avoiding the $2 fare by getting on and off at the Tompkinsville station, a 7-minute walk from the ferry's St. George stop.

 

"Everybody does it," said Kevin Howell, 28.

 

Howell who works as a security guard, has a commute that consists of a free railway ride and a free ferry ride. He only pays for the PATH train from World Trade Center to Jersey City.

 

Gaul said a turnstile was under construction at the Tompkinsville station to collect money from would-be fare skippers.

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Isn't there fare control at Tompkinsville now?

 

I'm not surprised about the sharp rise in ridership on SIR. I think SIR might need to expand soon, expand platforms for longer trains.

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i think when they expand it add a middle track for use as rush hour like the number 7 line in queens. when it by passes the train station it has to slow down a little but with the middle track it doesn`t even touch the stations there for it can maintain it`s speed

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Maybe it will get the slanties & brightliners when the subway is done with them?

 

- Andy

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i think when they expand it add a middle track for use as rush hour like the number 7 line in queens. when it by passes the train station it has to slow down a little but with the middle track it doesn`t even touch the stations there for it can maintain it`s speed

Actually, I've been on express trains that just totally blew right passed the station without slowing down.

 

Last time I took an express train, had just took a seat, train departed St. George, next thing you know we were stopping at Great Kills and I was like WTF?! Blew passed every station.

 

But an express track to be built on SIR would be an extremely hard task and long time to do with long and awful GOs. Its best to extend platforms and make trains longer. Stations are very well spread out so it would be pretty great for SIR.

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How fast does the train go anyways? An average of 28 miles like in our train system?

No. SIR pushes it a little more unlike NYCT.

 

And the express run, 60 something MPH tops.

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No. SIR pushes it a little more unlike NYCT.

 

And the express run, 60 something MPH tops.

 

Th Great Kills Express is a nice run... Being on the platform, and feeling, the 'whooosh' of them flying by is hot.:cool:

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Th Great Kills Express is a nice run... Being on the platform, and feeling, the 'whooosh' of them flying by is hot.:cool:

 

Must suck in winter when it's raining!!!!

 

- Andy

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How fast does the train go anyways? An average of 28 miles like in our train system?

 

nah more like 45 to 50 mph. Those SIR R44s are awsome!!! But the NYCT R44s are a junky POS the third worst car in the fleet.

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nah more like 45 to 50 mph. Those SIR R44s are awsome!!! But the NYCT R44s are a junky POS the third worst car in the fleet.

 

I gotta try the route in the summer...

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I've always wanted to get on the Staten Island Railway, for fanning purposes. I've never been able to, though, since I've never had the time, considering how far away I live from it.

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I've always wanted to get on the Staten Island Railway, for fanning purposes. I've never been able to, though, since I've never had the time, considering how far away I live from it.

 

Just catch the 1 to south ferry, and take the ferry across & there ya go.

 

- Andy

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Just catch the 1 to south ferry, and take the ferry across & there ya go.

 

- Andy

 

Yeah, I know how to get there, but the thing is, it takes at least an hour to get from my house in the Bronx to South Ferry. Add half an hour (or more, depending on what time you arrive) just to get to St. George. Then, it's another wait for the railway to come. So, it's a good 2-3 hour ride there, and another 2-3 hours back.

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Yeah, I know how to get there, but the thing is, it takes at least an hour to get from my house in the Bronx to South Ferry. Add half an hour (or more, depending on what time you arrive) just to get to St. George. Then, it's another wait for the railway to come. So, it's a good 2-3 hour ride there, and another 2-3 hours back.

 

Oh dont be sucha baby! lol just kidding. If anything, there's always a train waiting at St. George and one train depart every 10 minute (every 5 on Rush Hour) so u would wait long, and the ferry depart every 7 minute to match up time with the SIRT

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Yeah, I know how to get there, but the thing is, it takes at least an hour to get from my house in the Bronx to South Ferry. Add half an hour (or more, depending on what time you arrive) just to get to St. George. Then, it's another wait for the railway to come. So, it's a good 2-3 hour ride there, and another 2-3 hours back.

 

I used to have this problem visiting my ex out in bethpage. I had to follow amtrak/njtransit schedules and LIRR schedules. Was worth it though. As for me getting to SIR all i have to do is arrive from newark on path, walk for a few minutes and hop on the ferry. You should try to do it once just to experience it. Good luck if you try to!

 

- Andy

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