Closing out 2018 and entering the new year cannot go without reflecting on the past eight months since I've been with the LIRR. We've had our challenges, but I know our future ahead is bright. With a new sense of urgency, we've performed an unprecedented amount of work across our system in these months, which is designed and prioritized to deliver better train service to you, and has already begun to show its impacts.
While we always take lessons learned and use them to improve, I am consistently positioned to look ahead.
Never before has this amount of proactive maintenance work, rebuilding, and expanding the LIRR been as much of a priority as it is right now. Our focus remains on making strategic improvements for service now, but also for the future, as we continue building on a $6.6 billion investment to modernize the entire system.
What makes this an especially critical moment is that people across the region are using the LIRR system more than ever: We're on pace this year to have the highest record ridership in our modern history. In 2016, we shattered the modern ridership record at 89 million, which was matched again in 2017. We may very well break that number once again by year's end. These ever-growing figures show how important mass transportation is to Long Island and the entire New York metropolitan area as customers are increasingly using the LIRR to get to work, weekend activities, and events. In August, we broke another ridership record, when we carried more than 78,000 fans to and from the U.S. Open Championship at Shinnecock Hills.
This kind of growth is astounding, and I want each of you to know that the LIRR is not only working toward accommodating this growth in the near term, but we are working tirelessly each and every day to make sure that when you use the LIRR system, your ride is safe, comfortable, and reliable.
We’ve made significant accomplishments toward our goals over these past eight months, but I know we have a lot of work ahead still to do. I want you to know that we are only at the beginning of this complete transformation of the LIRR and we are not losing steam. In 2019, I will, with tenacity, continue leading the LIRR workforce in the right direction as we continue to improve and to regain your trust in this railroad.
I want to take this opportunity for a look back over the past eight months, as our team has made tremendous strides in repairing critical infrastructure that is essential to ensuring your commute runs efficiently and consistently. Through LIRR Forward, and other capital investments, we’ve completed and made substantial progress on several key initiatives that will help us deliver the service you deserve. We’ve:
- Completed Double Track more than one year ahead of schedule: Giving the Main Line from Farmingdale to Ronkonkoma added redundancy, flexibility and reverse-peak service for the first time in railroad history.
- Started substantial construction work on the LIRR Expansion Project (a.k.a. Third Track) in Nassau County from Floral Park to Hicksville: This will bring increased service reliability and options for commuters in the near future, in conjunction with other megaprojects like East Side Access, all set for completion by 2022.
- Completed installation of a new signal system at Harold Interlocking for East Side Access: This replaced an outdated system with a new microprocessor-based system, providing a more dependable trip through the railroad's busiest interlocking, just outside the East River Tunnels in Queens.
- PTC: Completed installation of PTC components on our entire fleet, and entered Revenue Service Demonstration on the Port Washington Branch, ensuring our continued compliance with Federal mandates as we remain committed to an aggressive schedule toward completion.
- Customer Communication: Continuously revamping our customer communication protocols as we get information out to our customers faster than ever.
- GPS: Completed installation of GPS systems on our trains, which will help in our customer communications and internal coordination efforts. Our teams continue to work on the software and integration, with rollout expected in 2019.
- Enhanced car and station cleaning to meet our cleanliness goals and your expectations.
- Replaced 129-year-old Buckram Road Bridge in Locust Valley to improve safety and reduce strikes by overheight vehicles, lessening delays on the Oyster Bay Branch.
- Replaced nine crucial switches: These had proven in the past to fail repeatedly. Instead of waiting for future capital programs, we are replacing these components now to provide faster relief from delays and service issues.
- Installed 60 snow switch covers: These help protect our infrastructure during winter storms to keep trains moving safely. We’re in the process of procuring more and will continue installing them in key locations.
- Cleared 200+ miles of vegetation: This more aggressive effort to clear our right-of-way on LIRR property helps minimize the impacts of fallen leaves, branches and trees onto our tracks that can cause delays, train cancellations, and branch suspensions. So far this year, through Hurricane Season and several fall storms, we have not had a tree on our property fall on our tracks.
- Installed flexible delineators and other grade crossing safety measures at all 296 street-level railroad crossings five months ahead of schedule across our system, which has helped keep vehicles from accidentally turning onto our tracks, improving safety for LIRR customers and motorists while reducing train delays.
- Opened a brand-new Wyandanch Station, along with newly renovated station buildings at Flushing-Main Street, Farmingdale, Wantagh, Brentwood, Deer Park, Northport, and Stony Brook.
- Replaced rails and wooden ties at various locations across the system: This fortifies and hardens our infrastructure, ensuring a continued safe and reliable ride.
- Performed proactive ultrasonic rail testing: To identify and repair rail, where necessary.
- Replaced the Gibson Station pedestrian overpass: Removed the old structure, supported by wood, and replaced it with a durable aluminum overpass that will serve customers for decades to come.
- Launched LIRR Care: Now offering better, more coordinated service to customers with mobility limitations.
- Initiated Waze partnership: By leveraging existing technology, we're integrating all 296 LIRR grade crossings into the GPS app to better alert motorists of upcoming railroad crossings, keeping them off our tracks and our trains running safely.
- Launched Atlantic Ticket field study: Currently underway, this study offers a reduced-price ticket for customers traveling between Brooklyn and select Queens stations, in an effort to better gauge ridership patterns when other modes of transport are available at a lower cost.
- Announced $1 million in funding previously earmarked to study the Lefferts Boulevard Bridge issues will instead go toward repairing the bridge, which, in turn, will save the iconic strip of businesses that anchor the Kew Gardens community.
- Lengthened platforms at Forest Hills and Kew Gardens, increasing boarding capacity by 50% at these stations, and decreasing dwell times as customers can more easily board and exit trains.
- Launched a parking app at Mineola's Intermodal Center, enabling customers who drive to this station to more easily find open spaces and pay by smartphone.
- Announced plans for a $17.9 million transformation of Lynbrook Station: This project, expected to be complete by 2020, will include rehabilitation of the viaduct and platforms, new glass platform waiting rooms, and more
As part of my customer-focused approach, we’ve created and rolled out a series of customer appreciation programs that have proven to be successful and a great value addition to our monthly ticket holders:
- Summer Saturdays and Autumn Weekends: Customers on select Saturdays and weekends were able to bring up to four companions for $1 each, one-way.
- My LIRR Loyalty: More than 100 vendors have joined this ever-evolving program that offers a variety of discounts for LIRR monthly ticket holders.
For the third year in a row, we sold out our LIRR Holiday Express trains, which ran earlier this month from Ronkonkoma and Babylon stations. In the next year, I will be continuously looking for ways to add value to our monthly tickets as well as create exciting new ways for long-time and first-time LIRR customers to use our system as our region continues to grow and prosper.
I want to thank each and every one of you who have taken the time to meet with me or other LIRR staff for offering your feedback to us. Your suggestions and ideas are helping to shape the future of the railroad into one that works best for you. It is an integral part of my job, and I look forward to continuing this open dialogue into the New Year. I've enjoyed engaging with you at several events, including our newly launched Meet Your Manager program (our Branch Line Managers have held these at 76 stations to date), two Customer Safety Day events at Penn Station, our two Customer Conversations forums in Nassau and Suffolk counties, as well as on platforms or on trains while I'm on my daily travels.
It's been a busy year with tremendous growth, and we recognize the challenges we face. But we will not stop until we can consistently accomplish what you all deserve: a clean, safe, on-time train ride. One of my main responsibilities is to ensure our employees have all the necessary tools to accomplish this, and we're making strategic decisions to maximize our efforts and make the best use of available funding and resources.
From the entire LIRR Family, I wish you and yours a beautiful holiday, and a Happy New Year.
New Timetable Changes Begin January 7
Starting Monday, January 7, 2019, new LIRR timetables will be in effect to accommodate Amtrak’s Penn Station renewal work on Track 18. Seven morning rush hour trains and six evening rush hour trains will be affected; but less than 1% of rush hour seating capacity will be impacted as the LIRR will add five trains to the schedule and lengthen select trains. MTA’s East Side Access (ESA) work in Harold Interlocking will require additional changes from January 7 until February 3, 2019.
Twice As Nice: Added Holiday Eve Trains
With Christmas Day and New Year’s Day falling on consecutive Tuesdays this year, the LIRR is offering double the usual number of holiday eve trains: 13 extra afternoon eastbound trains from Penn Station will run December 21, 24, 28, and 31, in addition to special New Year’s Eve service for those reveling into 2019. A holiday schedule rundown:
- Friday, December 21, Monday, December 24 (Christmas Eve): complete list of added trains.
- Tuesday, December 25 (Christmas Day): Holiday schedule in effect.
- Wednesday, December 26: Returning to regular weekday schedule.
- Friday, December 28, and Monday, December 31 (New Year’s Eve): complete list of added trains.
- Tuesday January 1 (New Year’s Day): Holiday schedule in effect + 19 extra trains departing after midnight – 15 from Penn Station and four from Atlantic Terminal: complete list of added trains.
'Know Before You Go' During Winter Storms
When a storm is predicted, the LIRR prepares, plans, and positions key personnel and equipment in strategic locations across the system. As we continuously monitor forecasts, we deploy snow fighting forces to keep our trains running. Our goal, in stormy or sunny weather, is to provide our customers a safe and reliable ride. For a more in-depth glimpse of our snow preparation efforts and strategy during a storm, we recommend reading The LIRR’s Guide to Winter Weather Travel. You can find it on our website here.
Get the Latest Service Updates by Signing up for Free MYMTAAlerts
The best way to get the latest information about train delays and service changes is by subscribing to My MTA Alerts® - our email and text message service. It’s free and you can choose to get alerts about your branch, or as many LIRR branches as you wish. Manage your account from your desktop or mobile device, including when you want to receive alerts. Edit, suspend or reactivate your account at any time. Updates are also available on the MTA/LIRR website in the Service Status Box. Details at www.mymtaalerts.com.
See all our Getaways packages here including:
Professional Bull Riders: Unleash the Beast
On Jan 4, 5 and 6, 2019, New York will host the first of the 2019 “PBR Majors” at Madison Square Garden for the 13th consecutive year. The PBR Majors are comprised of four of the highest-profile Unleash the Beast Series events on tour. The excitement begins when the top 35 bull riders in the world compete against the fiercest bucking bulls, providing two hours of thrills and spills keeping you on the edge of your seat. For tickets, dates and show times, visit ticketmaster.com and use code LIRR at checkout.
Click here for more details.
Offer includes one complimentary round-trip rail ticket per show ticket purchased (show tickets discounted 15%) and is valid on select seats and performances.
Offer not valid on previously purchased tickets and cannot be combined with any other offer. Tickets must be purchased at least 7-10 days prior to the performance to take advantage of the offer. Eight (8) tickets max per order. LIRR rail tickets will be mailed via US Mail. Rail tickets are valid for any train arriving at Penn Station after 9:30 AM, or anytime on weekends, and returning on any eastbound train up until 4 AM on the next day. Rail tickets have no cash value and are not refundable. Other restrictions may apply.
Your Voice Helps
Suzi writes: "Hi @LIRR just want to say thank you! I know you catch a lot of grief when things go wrong, but you also do a lot right. As a safety professional, I appreciate your commitment to the safety of your passengers. Thank you for getting me from speonk to penn everyday safely. Sure there may be issues every now and again, but nothing compared to driving!!! Hope you have a wonderful holiday season!"
Don M. writes: "@LIRR THANK YOU, THANK YOU for putting in a new shelter on the northside track in Cl. It was very needed and necessary."
Heather M. writes: "Was running late this morning as my daughter was sick. Thank you to the #LIRR #MTA conductor who held the door for me on 8:11 leaving Nassau Blvd to Penn. Really appreciated it!"
Joe S. writes, in regards to the Holiday Express: "This is really amazing. You guys do such an awesome job and you put smiles on a lot of children’s faces. Thank you very much and keep up the great work guys."
Tiki writes: "@LIRR really appreciate the weekend one seat ride from Smithtown, hope it continues!"
LIRR staff in each department at every level works to serve our customers. Your feedback, critical or complimentary, helps us do our jobs better. We’d love to hear from you; share your experiences and let us know what matters to you, here. Thank you for engaging with us, and we hope you have a wonderful holiday season.
MTA Police are advising LIRR customers to protect against possible credit/debit card fraud when using Ticket Machines. Using common sense at the point of purchase can prevent major headaches down the road. For more tips on how to safeguard your personal information, click here or see the Better Business Bureau website at www.bbb.org.
Taking the LIRR to do your holiday shopping? Spread holiday cheer by being kind to your fellow passengers and store your packages securely in the overhead racks on our trains. Bags in aisles cause tripping hazards, and bags on seats mean someone else can’t sit down.
LIRR Throwback Photo
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