LIRR President Resigns, MTA COO Takes Over

LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski addresses media during the Long Island Rail Road’s community meetings to allow members of the public to learn more about the project and provide their input on an 82-page “Draft Scoping Document” at Hofstra University on May 24, 2016. (Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin)

Embattled Long Island Rail Road President Patrick Nowakowski resigned Friday and was replaced by MTA Chief Operating Officer Phil Eng, according to the transit agency. 

The news follows reports that the LIRR — the nation’s busiest commuter railroad — had its worst performance in 18 years in 2017. Nowakowski led the LIRR for four years.

“I took a few days off to think about things,” Nowakowski said. “I’m pleased with the direction the railroad is headed under the Performance Improvement Plan, and I decided that now was a good time to step aside and allow new leadership to continue the progress we’ve begun to make on improving customer service.”

Leaders of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the LIRR’s parent agency, praised Nowakowski and Eng.

“I thank Pat for his service to LIRR customers and his steady and evenhanded leadership of the railroad at a time when external events caused challenges for the railroad, particularly Amtrak’s renewal of tracks and infrastructure at Penn Station that the entire LIRR depends on,” said MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota.

“Phil has shown exceptional leadership and dedication during his time at the MTA, and I know he will bring his enthusiasm for developing a world-class transportation system to the LIRR,” Lhota said. “With 35 years of experience in the New York transportation sector, I couldn’t imagine anyone better suited for this position at this crucial time as we work toward creating a robust future for the commuter rail.”

Eng’s appointment comes as the The Double Track Project, which will add a second track to the Ronkonkoma Branch between Ronkonkoma and Farmingdale, is slated for completion later this year. It also comes as work has begun on the LIRR Expansion Project, which will bring a third track to the Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville, while crews continue to make progress on the East Side Access project. Eng will oversee the implementation of the Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), unveiled last month, which is aimed at improving service reliability, seasonal preparedness and customer communications.

“My life’s work has centered on conceptualizing the best possible options to make transportation options more reliable, allowing commuters to get where they need to go safely and quickly,” Eng said. “I am honored to be chosen to lead the LIRR and its team of talented women and men as we work together to make the daily experience on the trains a better one. The transformational infrastructure projects that are underway, along with the implementation of the Performance Improvement Plan, will make a lasting impact on the region’s quality of life and economy.”

The Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council (LIRRCC) said it hopes the new leadership can effectively address the many issues facing the LIRR and the service it provides to its riders.

“Our council looks forward to working with the new leadership of the railroad to address the issues that impact service quality and the satisfaction of riders,” said LIRRCC Chair Mark Epstein.