Board Considers Ban on Alcohol for New York Commuter Railroads

It could soon be last call for commuters who enjoy a couple of beers on their trip to or from New York City if one official gets his way.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority board member Mitch Pally wants to ban alcohol from the Metro-North and Long Island railroads, where the sale and consumption of booze on trains has been allowed for decades.

"Times have changed and drunk driving is a major concern," said Pally.

On Wednesday, the MTA board decided to create a task force to study the issue and report back after March, said authority spokesman Tim O'Brien.

Beer cans sheathed in brown paper bags are a common sight during the evening rush hour on both the Metro-North and Long Island railroads — two of the busiest commuter lines in the country.

Commuters looking to unwind after a long day at the office can grab a drink from vendors who sell beer and wine on train platforms. The LIRR also sells alcohol on some trains, and generates $350,000 in annual revenue from alcohol sales.

"We have to provide a safe and secure ride for all our customers," Pally said. "A state agency encouraging people to drink by selling it themselves? It makes no sense. We should not have the railroad be a bartender."

Deena Cohen, the president of the Long Island chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, enthusiastically supports Pally's proposal. "People get off the railroad and they get into cars," she said. "Somebody is going to get killed."

Robert Smith, of Southampton, disagreed with the effort: "I think it's stupid. I think after work you want to relax. They want us to take the MTA and not drink and drive and now they want to ban everything."

Pally's proposal follows a recent spate of accidents in which commuters have fallen through the gaps between the platforms and trains. In the most notorious case, a Minnesota teen was killed in August when she fell through a gap on the Long Island Rail Road on her way to a concert. Her blood-alcohol level was 0.23 percent — nearly three times the legal driving limit.

Terry Rhatigan, of Farmingville, waiting for a train at the Ronkonkoma station on Long Island, said he supported the proposal. "I think it's bad enough they let them come on the train already drunk," he said. "Letting them drink more just makes it worse."