Better on-time LIRR ratings for January reflect new approach: MTA

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LIRR President Phillip Eng greeting commuters at the Mineola train station. (Photo by Rebecca Klar)
LIRR President Phillip Eng greeting commuters at the Mineola train station. (Photo by Rebecca Klar)

It was a happy new year for the Long Island Rail Road in January, when it recorded its best monthly on-time performance since January 2013, which had an on-time rate of 93 percent.

LIRR President Philip Eng said at a customer forum last week that 92.7 percent of LIRR trains were on time. Aaron Donovan, an MTA spokesman, confirmed that number.

This is nearly 10 percentage points higher than the 83.9 percent rating in January 2018, when a “bomb cyclone” battered Long Island with howling winds and snow. December 2018 also recorded a 93.5 percent on-time rate, almost 4 percentage points higher than December 2017’s on time rate.

Donovan said the improving on-time performance is “a reflection of the changes” that Eng has implemented since April through the LIRR Forward plan. Among those changes have been the addition of switch snow covers, third rail heaters, flexible delineators, increasing wheel truing capacity, and improving vegetation management and boarding platform lengths.

“These actions are outgrowths of the LIRR’s new approach to identify the causes of delays to put practical solutions in place quickly with renewed energy,” Donovan said. “The LIRR is tackling all of those things that it can control, so that the railroad is better prepared to respond to challenges Mother Nature may throw at us.”

The LIRR’s overall on time rating for 2018 was 90.4 percent, which is below 2017’s overall on-time rate of 91.4 percent. This makes it the lowest level since 1999, according to the state comptroller’s office.

A train is considered “on-time” if it pulls into the station less than six minutes after its scheduled arrival time.

While the 92.7 percent rate is an improvement, it falls short of the agency’s own goal of a 94 percent on-time performance rate.

The news comes less than a month after Long Island state senators, as well as the chairs of two state Senate committees blasted the Long Island Rail Road’s overall 2018 performance and announced their intention to hold hearings about the continuing travel woes.

“Statistics reveal what commuters know quite well – that the LIRR’s recent performance is subpar and in desperate need of thorough review and revamping,” the senators wrote in a letter sent to the LIRR president and the MTA on Jan. 17.

The on-time rating was released as the MTA, which oversees the LIRR, has proposed fare hikes in March to make up for a revenue shortfall.

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