By Briana Bonfiglio and Drashti Mehta
The Long Island Rail Road plans to reverse its controversial service cuts following backlash from riders and officials who said the fewer number of trains resulted in crowding that risked the spread of Covid-19.
“We heard our customers’ concerns about our new schedule loud and clear,” LIRR President Phil Eng said in a statement Tuesday. “As a result, we will restore our previous timetable on March 29. In the meantime, we will continue to strategically add additional trains and lengthen trains to meet evolving ridership levels.”
Officials had been calling on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to restore regular service on the LIRR after schedule cuts led to crowding of trains on Monday.
During a phone call with reporters on Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the limited LIRR service “certainly didn’t work well” and expressed concern about overcrowding of the trains.
“It’s smarter to have fewer people on a train during this period,” he said, referring to the Covid-19 pandemic, “even if it’s not cost-effective.”
The MTA scaled back train times starting Monday in hopes of saving about $15 million amid a 75 percent decline in ridership, according to MTA data. However, when train cars became packed on Monday, it raised worry among riders about being able to social distance.
Officials cheered the LIRR’s decision to reverse the cuts.
“Reducing train service as our economy reopens makes no sense, as the LIRR must accommodate for social distancing as more residents get back to work,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said. “I will continue to push the MTA as necessary to ensure Nassau residents have the safe, reliable commute they deserve.”