OpEd: The Latest High-tech Upgrades on the Long Island Rail Road

long island rail road
MTA Long Island Rail Road President Phil Eng was joined by Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, tourism officials and lifeguards to celebrate the return of beach season and expanded LIRR summer service. Photo: MTA Long Island Rail Road / Glen Sager

Long Island Rail Road customers coming back to ride for the first time in a while will find enhancements: new digital platform screens and information across the system, a revamped app with first-in-the-world real-time train status, and improved wayfinding signage at Jamaica Station for easier navigation between the AirTrain, subway, buses, and LIRR at Jamaica Station.

What you might not notice: infrastructure accomplishments we’ve been delivering that are making our system safer and more reliable than ever. At Lynbrook and Rockville Centre stations, we’ve recently completed critical viaduct work that continues to restore long term stability to those structures carrying trains on the Babylon Branch.

Our approach to fixing and improving customer service, driven by LIRR Forward philosophy, starts with one question: how do we tackle the root cause of any particular problem? At these stations, we did just that. By installing new drainage systems, water from rain or snow will now flow properly off the track beds, further improving safety and service reliability while protecting the viaduct.

While you’ve been away, we’ve been taking advantage of new technology to improve vital aspects of our tracks and switches, and the results are reflected in on-time performance. I made a promise to our riders that we would improve their experience, and I’m proud to say that we are delivering the most reliable train service in modern history. Last year, we broke our own record for highest on-time performance with 95.9% of all trains running on-time. So far this year, we’re ahead of that record-breaking figure at 96.07%.

All thanks go to the LIRR workforce and managers, who demonstrated throughout the pandemic their dedication to public service as they improve our transportation system for current and future riders. The workforce has successfully accomplished record amounts of infrastructure work and they’re doing it more efficiently than ever.

But it’s their spirited commitment for their crafts that keeps them coming in every day even during the pandemic. With an open line of two-way communication with our labor union partners, we jointly ensured the safety of our workforce enabling them to continue to do their jobs both before and during this pandemic.

Now with weekday ridership hovering around 40% of pre-pandemic levels and weekends topping 66%, more and more customers are experiencing these improvements first-hand.

We’re rebuilding the railroad piece by piece, while simultaneously supporting major system expansions like Third Track and East Side Access. With these improvements and achievements, all of us here at the LIRR are feeling a strong sense of Long Island and New York pride, and we’re excited to be part of building a better and brighter future for our region.

The proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” are trains carrying more Long Islanders every week. LIRR is here for you – indeed we never left!

Phillip Eng is president of the MTA Long Island Rail Road.

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