Friday, March 13

Testing a theory

For a while now I’ve had a theory that rider demographics in different cars of a particular LIRR train will differ according to the car’s location in the consist. Let’s say that 60% of the riders on a 12-car Ronkonkoma train are SCA’s. That does not mean, according to my theory, that 60% of the riders in each car will be among their ranks. One car might be, say, 85% SCA-ridden, while in another one the percentage is half as high. To be more specific, my theory posits that on morning trains from Ronkonkoma, the closer a car is to the middle of the consist, the lower the percentage of SCA’s. That’s because the ticket windows and machines are located near the middle of the platforms, and people who do not ride on a regular basis may have to buy tickets before boarding. They’ll then board nearby cars.  SCA’s have monthly tickets and therefore no need to visit the ticket windows or machines each day. As a result, they’ll distribute themselves along the platforms to a greater extent. Another reason is that riding toward the middle of the consist increases the length of one’s walk to the subway (either the Seventh or Eighth avenue lines) after arrival at Penn. Non-regular riders aren’t as likely to know that, and in any event they’re not all obsessive-compulsive about time, unlike SCA’s with their Type A+ personalities. Finally, infrequent riders may not realize that rush hour trains fill the entire long platforms at Ronkonkoma.

After arriving at Ronkonkoma on the shuttle from Medford this morning, I decided to put my theory to the test. Of course it will take multiple observations before I can make any judgments as to the accuracy of my theory, but there has to be a start. I waited around for a while and boarded the 7:19 to Penn right near the ticket office. That was around where I boarded yesterday, and indeed I noted yesterday that the car’s ridership was not the high-testosterone demographic of the typical Ronkonkoma train. Suffice to say that things weren’t any different today. The car was more than two-thirds full by the time we left Ronkonkoma, and it was a pleasant selection of ordinary people not all that different from what you’d see in a mall or supermarket. A diverse bunch in terms of gender, age and to some extent ethnicity. I noticed a few groups of two or three people traveling together, in sharp contrast to the mainly solo travelers seen at rush hour. But most of all, impossible for even the least observant human to overlook, was the wide and glorious variety of clothing on display – a far, far cry from the endless sea of suits that is so characteristic of Ronkonkoma. A casually dressed man in his mid-20’s sat next to me; his young age, informal attire, and most of all his slim, fit build was in sharp contrast to what I usually am forced to experience. Not enough people boarded at the two remaining stops, Central Islip and Brentwood, for me to make any sort of judgment, though as a general rule the riders at those stations, both located in relatively lower-income communities, are very different demographically from the norm at Ronkonkoma. Deer Park is a somewhat smaller version of Ronkonkoma, but the 7:19 doesn’t stop there. Lastly, when the conductor came around for tickets, I noticed that he stopped to punch many of them, a sign that the riders had daily round-trip tickets and the conductor was punching them to show that one ride was used. Conductors just glance at monthly (or weekly) tickets. We got to Penn on time, needless to say I was all relaxed from the easy ride, and I waited just a couple of minutes for a 2 train to Fulton.

It’s not as likely that ridership demographics will differ as much on evening trains out of Penn as they do on morning Ronkonkoma trains. For one thing, many non-regular riders will be using the second half of the round trip tickets they bought in the morning at Ronkonkoma. I would still surmise that they’re more likely to be found toward the east end of trains, that end being nearer the main part of the LIRR concourse. In other words, they’re less likely to be aware of the other boarding points. To test the theory once again, after a somewhat crowded ride on a 2 from Fulton I rode toward the east end of the 5:22 to Ronkonkoma, which was on Track 19 rather than the usual 15. As I’d suspected, it was somewhat like the morning’s train, though not to quite the same extent; there were relatively more normal people and relatively fewer SCA’s than usual, but the difference wasn’t as pronounced as it had been in the morning. A woman in her 30’s sat next to me and was no bother. She actually had a monthly ticket, but her relatively casual attire – not to mention her gender – set her apart from the usual mass of Ronkonkoma riders. I spent most of the ride reading another chapter of Condor and playing some mediocre games of Tetris. It was a quick enough ride to Ronkonkoma, where I got picked up, so no shuttle today. It was also a rest day from the gym.

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Published in: on March 14, 2009 at 4:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

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