OpEd: Ridership Numbers Keep Climbing on Long Island Rail Road

rail road
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

The number just keeps climbing: 32%!

Last week, we marked yet another milestone for the highest level of ridership in one day on the Long Island Rail Road since the start of the pandemic. To those heroic essential workers who have been riding throughout the entire COVID-19 crisis, we thank you. And to our recently returning riders, it’s a great feeling seeing you back on the rails.

We are witnessing more and more people returning to public transit because they know it’s the best way to get around our region – and it’s safe.

Even better: we’re seeing weekend and off-peak ridership continue to climb. On Mother’s Day weekend, we recorded ridership at 55% of pre-pandemic levels. What does this mean? My hope for you, the beginning of the return to a new normalcy. If there is a place to be, riders will return for work or pleasure. And we will be there for you.

Customers are returning to MTA services across the board. NYC Transit Subways and Buses and Metro-North Railroad also recently clocked pandemic highs in their respective ridership figures. We still have a long way to go, but the upward trend is promising — not just for the MTA, but also for what the progress means for the region as a whole.

Throughout the entire pandemic, we’ve taken customer and employee safety extremely seriously. Never-before-seen sanitizing protocols were instituted that have made LIRR and MTA stations, trains, subways, and buses cleaner than ever before. We’ve distributed millions of free masks to customers in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. And we’ve launched aggressive mask and vaccine campaigns both for our customers and employees.

Last week, the MTA went a step further to make it easier than ever to keep you and your fellow passengers safe. We launched a pilot public vaccination program at eight walk-in sites across the MTA system, including at LIRR’s Penn Station and Hempstead Station. The program is proving successful. More than 2,200 people were vaccinated the first two days alone. A truly remarkable effort. But please remember, even if you are vaccinated, masks continue to be required for everyone in the mass transit system, including on trains and at stations and outdoor platforms.

As the weather improves and sporting events and shows return to New York, we are excited to see our ridership grow. With summer just around the corner, Long Island’s busy tourist season will soon ramp up – with safety precautions, of course – at beaches, wineries, breweries, and other local destinations. Keep your eyes open for LIRR tours and beat the summer Island traffic the way seasoned travelers know how – and take the train.

Don’t forget to download our completely revamped LIRR TrainTime app. It has everything you need to plan a safe trip, including tools that show real-time seating availability, accessibility information, historical and real-time passenger loading data, and much more. We’re providing riders with as much information about their ride as possible so you can feel empowered, informed, and most of all, safe.

Catch you on the rails and keep sharing your thoughts with me when you see me!

Phillip Eng is president of MTA Long Island Rail Road.

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