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Queens Chronicle

LIRR Elmhurst station survey raises questions

Civic group questions $5 reward, questions wording and sample size

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Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:59 am, Thu Sep 5, 2013.

At the end of June the Long Island Rail Road agreed to fund and conduct a survey that could result in the rebuilding of a train station in Elmhurst.

The envelopes have been sealed, stamped and distributed, but the leadership at the Newtown Civic Association, which advocated for the stop at Broadway and Whitney Avenue to be revisited, wants to know why only 10 percent of households in a half-mile radius of the stop received surveys.

“I have yet to meet a Newtown Civic member or Community Board 4 member that has received a survey,” said Newtown Civic Association member Robert Valdes-Clausell. There are more than 300 people affiliated with the association and about 40 CB 4 members.

Valdes-Clausell spoke to his mailman and out of 154 households, 10 received a survey, with two surveys going to each of those 10. The 10 percent accounts for each household getting two mailings.

An LIRR spokesman, Salvatore Arena, said the survey was developed and being administered by a professional market research firm.

“[It] was designed to elicit feedback from a scientifically representative group of citizens,” Arena said. “The survey is well under way and cannot be changed or extended.”

Additionally, anyone who fills out and returns the survey, which is funded by the railroad, is offered $5.

The Newtown Civic Association said this may taint the results.

Arena said “It was simply offered as a modest incentive for completing and sending in the survey.”

Another worry is how the survey compares traveling from Elmhurst to Manhattan by car, subway/bus or LIRR.

The railroad estimates by car it would take 50 minutes and $20 to get into Manhattan, which includes gas and parking costs. By subway or bus the survey estimates 45 minutes and $2.50. Taking the LIRR would cost between $4.90 and $7.50 and take 30 to 45 minutes.

However, Newtown Civic Association members say old schedules show the Port Washington Branch of the LIRR took about 13 minutes from Elmhurst to Penn Station in the 80s when it ran.

The LIRR confirmed that based on schedules from Flushing that the ride from Elmhurst would last less than 19 minutes to Penn Station.

However, the 30 to 45 minutes include more than just that ride. It takes into account some riders will take the train further to Grand Central Station, the time spent waiting for the train and the time a customer would spend traveling from the station to their destination in Manhattan, which could include a subway or bus ride.

“The times and costs associated with all three travel mode choices were designed to represent realistic travel choices, based upon total travel time that Elmhurst residents would be making, rather than simply examining the run time of an LIRR or subway train trip,” Arena said.

Results as to whether the railroad thinks it’s worth the $30 million pricetag to restore the station should be released early next year, according to the LIRR.

“As we await the results of the Elmhurst LIRR station survey, some questions have been raised with respect to how the survey was conducted,” said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx). “I believe it’s clear our community wants to see the station reopen and I am confident the results of the survey will ultimately support this proposal.”

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