Long Island Rail Road riders are railing against service cuts the MTA enacted after a steep decline in ridership due to the coronavirus pandemic forced the transit agency to do some belt-tightening.
LIRR commuters took to Twitter to express frustration and post pictures of overcrowded trains. The service cuts, which the Metropolitan Transportation Authority hopes will save approximately $15 million amid a 75 percent decline in ridership, raise health concerns among commuters as many trains did not allow the space to remain socially distant.
The MTA said in a press release that the new service schedules “will allow us to operate more efficiently while supporting critical infrastructure work, including rail tie replacement, construction of a new train storage track in Massapequa, and work related to the ongoing construction of a third track between Hicksville and Floral Park.”
While all 11 branches continue to receive service, Babylon, Far Rockaway, Hempstead, Huntington, Long Beach, Oyster Bay, Port Washington and Ronkonkoma are most heavily impacted. The Babylon and Huntington lines currently run every half-hour midday, while the Far Rockaway, Hempstead, Long Beach, Port Washington and Ronkonkoma lines only run on an hourly schedule.
The reduced service and complaints prompted a response from several government officials including New York State Senator Todd Kaminsky and U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who stated in a Twitter post that he sent a letter to LIRR President Phil Eng, requesting that he reconsider the cut made.
“As a representative of the tens of thousands of riders who rely on the Long Island Railroad, I am very concerned about the LIRR’s latest round of service cuts,” Suozzi wrote. “Please re-examine your service cuts immediately. Now is not the time to risk overcrowding.”
Eng issued a statement acknowledging the issues that arose today and confirming that immediate action would be taken.
“During this morning’s rush, there were sporadic and isolated incidents of crowding on a few trains in the morning rush and we are prepared to add service during the p.m. rush as well as tomorrow morning to immediately address this issue,” Eng said in a statement on the MTA’s website.
The MTA has stated that the LIRR schedule will not be available as a printout and encourages all riders to check the schedule online ahead of their departure.