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LIRR’s advice on misuse of e-tickets does not fall into good soil with riders

Electronic LIRR tickets are becoming more popular, but several riders have complained about receiving what they say are threatening emails from the railroad because they did not immediately activate their tickets.

While electronic ticket holders are supposed to activate the tickets on their mobile device before boarding a train, some passengers often wait to do so until they are on board and a Long Island Rail Road collector comes around. These commuters have received emails informing them that their accounts were identified as being “in violation of our terms and conditions.”

What to know

LIRR’s “eTix” electronic tickets, introduced in 2016, has sold out paper tickets.

The rise of electronic tickets has come with increasing complaints from riders about emails from LIRR denying them not activating the tickets before boarding a train, threatening to block their accounts for future violations.

LIRR and union officials said timely activation of tickets allows it for conductors to perform their various tasks. But some riders said the LIRR should not worry about when tickets are activated as long as they are purchased.

“You activate on board and not before boarding as needed,” the message said. “Future violations of this policy may result in your account being blocked, so make sure you activate before boarding, as needed to use the app.”

LIRR spokesman David Steckel said train conductors have several tasks in addition to ticket collection, including ensuring passenger safety, and that loss of time waiting for customers to activate tickets could get in the way of those obligations.

E-tickets that can be purchased on cell phones are more than paper tickets, the railroad said. LIRR introduced its “eTix” concept five years ago.

By the end of October, e-tickets had accounted for 49.8% of LIRR ticket sales this year. Paper tickets purchased before boarding accounted for 48.7% of ticket sales, and purchases on board accounted for the remaining 1.5% according to the railway.

On social media, several passengers have said they were taken aback and annoyed by the messages about their e-ticket activity. Some have questioned whether LIRR tracks their whereabouts through the mobile app.

LIRR officials said they do not track customer locations, but can tell that a rider did not activate a ticket immediately in the time interval between when a ticket is activated and validated by a conductor.

Long Beach rider Tony Arroyo said he received an email about 10 months ago.

“I was surprised and angry when I got the email,” said Arroyo, who stopped using LIRR e-tickets after receiving the warning. Arroyo said he has used e-tickets on other railroads and “was never criticized for activating it late.”

Steckel said, in response to customer complaints, LIRR recently softened the language in its emails, which now begin with, “This is a kind reminder that you must activate your ticket before boarding the train.”

The newly worded message still tells customers that their accounts may be blocked for future violations, but adds “we look forward to having you as an eTix customer and hope you enjoy the convenience and convenience of mobile tickets.”

Anthony Simon, who heads the LIRR conductors’ union, said commuters should follow the rules.

“The rules are clear that these tickets simply need to be activated before boarding so that our train staff can quickly validate them and move on to their tasks with both ticket collection and safe train movement,” said Simon, general president of the International Association of Sheet. Metal, air, rail and transport workers.

Commuter: Focus on enforcing masking

Commuter Susan Kelly of Franklin Square said the issue speaks to the wrong priorities of LIRR and its conductors, which she believes should spend more energy enforcing other policies, including face-masking on trains, during this COVID-19 pandemic.

“If someone activates their ticket, who cares when? The money is spent and the trip is paid for,” Kelly said. “Instead of worrying about money, worry about the health of the riders.”

West Hempstead commuter JB Stulberger only recently began using e-tickets, which he typically does not activate until he sits in his seat and the train moves. He prefers not to activate before boarding, in part because of concerns that his train is delayed.

Once activated, “e-tickets expire after a predetermined period of time for the selected trip,” according to the LIRR policy.

“What happens if your ticket expires in the middle of the transfer or if there are delays?” asked Stulberger, who said the railroad needs to communicate better with customers about the use of e-tickets. “Their expectations need to be clarified.”

A potential reason for not activating e-tickets ahead of time is that conductors sometimes do not check them – giving riders a free ticket for future use. LIRR President Phillip Eng said the strategy is a disservice to the railways and to the paid passengers.

“It ultimately hurts our revenue and the expenses that are ultimately shared by the public,” Eng said in an interview. “Obviously the riders will enjoy the ride. And we expect them all to pay their fares.”

LIRR, which reported losing $ 20 million annually in unpaid fares before the pandemic began in March 2020, has taken steps to minimize free rides, including by charging a $ 10 fee for any e-ticket refund request that made after two minutes after purchase. .

Meanwhile, it is still unclear when the next development of electronic ticket payment – Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s new OMNY contactless payment system – will come to LIRR. An acronym for “One Metro New York,” OMNY is already available at all subway stations and is intended to replace MetroCard in the long term.

MTA officials have said OMNY “will eventually replace eTix” on LIRR, but the system’s rollout on LIRR – originally scheduled for February this year – has been pushed to a point next year.

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