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Phillip Eng

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OpEd: Thanks, LIRR Workers, For Keeping Trains Rolling During Pandemic

A Car Appearance Maintainer with the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) demonstrates the disinfecting methods of a train car from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Hicksville Station on Long Island in New York, U.S., March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

There aren’t enough thanks I could give the LIRR workforce for all the efforts and strides they’ve collectively made over the past six months to keep our region safe, and to keep Long Island moving. 

And that goes for you too — the public — for doing your part in helping us stop the spread. But as we see clusters of COVID-19 positive cases popping up in communities around the New York metropolitan area, it’s important that we stay vigilant. We must continue to protect one another. 

It was with a heavy heart that I shared the news Friday with colleagues that a member of the LIRR family, Kyle Fulcher, succumbed to COVID-19 Oct. 1. Kyle joined the LIRR almost two decades ago, working first as an electrician, and more recently as a training specialist.

Upon learning of Kyle’s positive COVID test, we moved quickly to protect the health and safety of those who worked with him. I hope you’ll join me in keeping Kyle’s family in your thoughts and prayers. 

As circumstances continue to evolve in our work lives and our personal lives, with many children across our region returning to in-person school instruction, we must continue to practice everything we’ve been doing, both at work and at home: wearing masks, washing hands, using hand sanitizer, giving each other extra space when we’re able to, and staying home if we don’t feel well. 

Riding public transportation remains a safe way to get around. We’re doing our part to keep it that way with increased cleaning and disinfection efforts at stations and on our trains, and handing out masks to riders who need one.

Now we need final enactment of the second HEROES Act passed by the House Thursday night to ensure our region continues to have critically robust and safe public transportation as we rebuild.

Since the height of the first wave of COVID-19 through New York, there has been much talk about preventing a second wave, which some experts have said is inevitable. But it doesn’t have to be, if we stay smart. 

Don’t let down your guard. Everything we did to flatten the curve is even more vital now. We cannot lose sight of all the losses we’ve already incurred and all the suffering that’s gone on.  

We owe it to everyone to do our best to avoid a surge in new cases. And it’s important to remember that you, yes you, have the power to stem this virus and help save lives. We must all contribute to this effort. 

Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stay home if you’re sick. It’s not complicated, but it is imperative. 

Stay tough, New York. 

Phillip Eng is president of MTA Long Island Rail Road.

This OpEd first appeared on amNY.com

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OpEd: LIRR Desperately Needs Federal Help

Commuters leave a Long Island Railroad train at Pennsylvania Station in New York July 15, 2014. (Reuters)

It is fair to say that there’s no Long Island without the Long Island Rail Road.

It’s no secret that we keep Long Island moving – and not just to the world-class beaches. We moved – and continue to move – the frontline workers of this pandemic that helped New York weather some of our darkest days.

But federal government inaction — in failing to allocate $12 billion in emergency funds to the MTA — is showing New Yorkers that our economic viability doesn’t matter. Making matters worse, they’ve now crossed a line no government agency should cross when we all serve the public: FEMA is set to cut critical funding that helps keep our system clean and disinfected amid this ongoing global pandemic. 

Denying help is one thing. But it’s unconscionable to take steps that intentionally hurt the public.

It’s because of the leadership of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and the heroic efforts of the frontline workers, including the LIRR and entire MTA workforce, and the public for doing their part in staying home and wearing masks, that New York crushed the curve.

We’ve been doing our part: cleaning and disinfecting our trains and stations at a rate and level never before seen in our history. We’ve set up hand sanitizer dispensers as our ambassadors hand out free masks at stations. We have one of the most robust public health campaigns currently out there. We’re keeping up these efforts in anticipation of a possible second wave. We need to be prepared. The latest cleaning funding cuts from the federal government put us all at risk.

New York is and will continue to be resilient. Because of all our efforts, I’m grateful now to see a slow and steady resurgence of the great state we call home. And I remain hopeful as we welcome customers back to our system.

We need to keep this momentum and we need to keep going. And we need to make sure our employees and customers remain safe. We know the value of public transportation in our densely populated corner of the world. It cannot be underestimated what commuter rail – that served more than 91 million trips last year – means to a metropolis like ours. And we wouldn’t be what the Governor rightly calls New York Tough without fighting for what’s right.

Washington: we need major federal funding. Now. Our future, New York’s future, and, quite frankly, the nation’s future, lies in the balance.

Phillip Eng is president of the Long Island Rail Road.

This OpEd first appeared on amNY.com

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OpEd: Moving the LIRR Forward Amid The COVID-19 Pandemic

LIRR's diesel electric No. 421 passing the site of the former Bayport Station on the Montauk Line on Nov. 27, 2010. (Photo by Lexcie)

As we welcome more and more customers back onto the Long Island Rail Road, it’s clearer than ever that the progress we’ve made over the past two years through “LIRR Forward” can’t stop now.  

We continue to follow the philosophy of the LIRR Forward blueprint to provide robust reliability and exemplary customer service, while at the same time finding ways to cut costs and innovate instead of following decades-old industry standards that have long fallen short of our needs and those of our customers.    

We’ve executed project and maintenance delivery in ways many people haven’t witnessed in decades. How did we get this done? Smart decisions and the hard work, dedication, and pride of our 7,600-strong workforce. Even as the novel coronavirus slammed New York and affected our own ranks, we’ve been working creatively to embrace new ways to get work done efficiently. 

Over the past several months, we banded together once again, as heroes moving heroes, with management teams across Maintenance of Equipment, Transportation, and Engineering departments that focused on controlling costs while delivering robust, safe, and reliable Essential Service for frontline workers.  

A partnership with the Transportation Communications Union (TCU) leadership helped create new roles using existing staff. At the height of the pandemic, a newly formed ‘GO Team’ was deployed to employee facilities whenever a worker was suspected of having been exposed to the virus to disinfect that workspace. As the number of cases dwindled on LI, this team was repurposed to disinfect smaller, remote employee facilities like trailers and signal huts (previously cleaned by contractors), saving money. 

When the virus forced us to close ticket windows, we reassigned ticket agents as Station Ambassadors at nearly 30 stations, engaging with customers and assisting station maintainers in disinfecting key touchpoints to supplement aggressive cleaning protocols. They also provide masks to customers who left home without face coverings and monitor hand sanitizer dispensers, among other duties. 

We didn’t take our job in this lightly. And now we need the federal government to step up so we can continue to do our part to help bring back New York’s economy, and in turn, the nation’s economy. 

Each one of us did our part to take Long Island from one of the country’s hot spots to phase four reopening. New York: Help keep the curve flattened by doing the right thing. Wear a face covering. You never know whose life it’s going to save. 

Let’s keep this progress up.

Phil Eng is president of the Long Island Rail Road.

This OpEd first appeared on amny.com

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LIRR Keeps Up With Growing Demand While Protecting Riders

Long Island Rail Road
Long Island Rail Road riders board a train in Long Beach (Photo by Joseph Abate).

Summertime on Long Island is looking a whole lot different this year. While the days are longer and the air is hotter, the reality is we’re still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’re all yearning for a sense of normalcy. But we know this has been a tough road, and this crisis is not over yet. There’s still much to be done as we work together to rebuild and help prevent a second wave.

Last week, NYC had its Phase 1 reopening, while Long Island’s Phase 2 came a few days later. These were milestone days for us all; and the LIRR was prepared for the return of more workers as we increased service to 90% of a normal weekday schedule. We’re monitoring ridership patterns and we’re ready to adjust and flex where possible to support essential workers.

As we ramp up service to coincide with phased reopenings across Long Island and New York City, the LIRR workforce is working around the clock to keep customers and employees safe.

LIRR stations have been cleaned more than 7,400 times since May 1, and LIRR train cars have been cleaned more than 27,300 times. Daily disinfecting and cleaning will continue with all LIRR train cars being sanitized at least once a day and stations at least twice daily.

We saw ridership inch up last week, to more than 28,000 on the first day of NYC’s reopening. As we follow ridership patterns, we’re continuing to urge business leaders across LI and NYC to consider staggering work hours to help with adequate distancing onboard trains.

We deployed more than 100 employees to stations across our system, distributing masks to riders and having NYS Clean hand sanitizing stations available to promote the messages of good hygiene and safe travel. Remember, wearing a mask or face covering is mandatory while riding on public transpiration.

I have great pride and admiration in the LIRR workforce and all they’ve accomplished throughout this pandemic. It is their heroic efforts that have allowed LIRR to move essential workers to bend the curve and save lives. The light at the end of the tunnel is both brighter and closer — and we want you to know if you have to get to work, the LIRR is here for you, and rest assured that your safety and the safety of our workforce will always remain our top priority.

Phillip Eng is president of the Long Island Rail Road.

This OpEd first appeared on amNY.com

For more editorials visit longislandpress.com/category/perspectives

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OpEd: Be A Hero By Wearing Your Mask In Public

A United States Postal Service (USPS) mail carrier pushes his cart while delivering mail in the rain on Manhattan's Upper West Side during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., April 13, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Doctors. Nurses. Transportation workers. Grocery and pharmacy staff. And you.

What do we all have in common? Yes, some of us are heroes and others of us mere mortals, but we all can do our part in overcoming this crisis.

We know that there’s no proven playbook for this. But we also know there are things that work: Washing your hands. Using hand sanitizer. Staying home unless you absolutely need to travel. Feeling sick? Stay home.

Now we need everyone to go one step further: When you’re on public transportation, you must wear a face covering.

That’s an order from the governor. It’s important. It can be a mask, a bandana, a scarf. Whatever kind of cloth it is, it must cover your mouth and nose and it must stay there for the entire duration of your trip. If you’re at a station or on a platform, wear it there, too.

As we all prepare for what’s to come next, we must embrace this necessary part of public health and safety. And it’s up to all of us to play our part.

For the LIRR, that means keeping up with increased disinfecting of our stations – right now we’re getting to each of our 124 stations twice per day. Train cars are also getting increased attention: round-the-clock efforts are getting to our entire fleet of more than 1,000 train cars each day.

We do this to meet our goal of giving riders as much comfort as possible when they need to use our system to get to their jobs. This is a dynamic situation, and we’ve all been forced to be dynamic along with it.

But we can’t be reckless, and we can’t let the virus get ahead again. It’s more important than ever that we show and share compassion for one another. While we all may be affected by this virus in different ways, we must remember the importance of community and watch out for each other.

Long Island, NYC, and the entire region will undoubtedly be changed – but we’re doing everything we can to ensure that our customers and employees feel safe when it’s time to reopen. While we come up with a blueprint for future service, we ask that you continue to do your part by wearing a mask and practicing good hygiene. The future of our region depends on how we act. Let’s do so responsibly and with care.

During times of great stress and uncertainty, we all need to practice more patience with ourselves and with each other. But as we see the curve continue to flatten, this gives me confidence that New York will rebound – stronger and more resilient than ever before.

Phillip Eng is president of the Long Island Rail Road.

This OpEd first appeared in on amny.com

For more editorials visit longislandpress.com/category/perspectives

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LIRR President: We Miss Our Customers, Too

LIRR Train Driver
A lone passenger boards a Long Island Rail Road train in Long Beach (Joe Abate).

“We miss you @LIRR #commute #NYtough” tweeted @LBMTY.  

I couldn’t have said that better, and it’s mutual. My colleagues and I at the Long Island Rail Road miss the 95 percent of our riders who have been unable to ride with us the last few weeks.

While I am so proud of what the LIRR managers and workforce continue to do, I can’t overstate how we are all praying for our colleagues that are currently battling the virus themselves, and with a heavy heart remember our MTA brothers and sisters that have succumbed to this deadly disease.  The COVID-19 pandemic is a global crisis that’s been brought right to our front doors, our train stations, and other places that have always been routine stops in what was our normal days. New York City and Long Island are the epicenters of this pandemic.

Yet every day our brave workforce is battling to honor their colleagues and move essential workers to save lives. They are “heroes moving heroes” — doctors, nurses, pharmacists, first responders, grocery store workers, utility and childcare employees, and transportation workers to name a few who literally went from family providers to heroes in a week last month.  They have performed so admirably against an invisible enemy.   

“Thanks! I work in a hospital pharmacy & have to take LIRR to NYC everyday and weekend!” tweeted @Daniella.         

Frontline conductors, engineers, ambassadors, station cleaners and behind-the-scene maintenance and cleaning crews, safety team, communications team, HR and managers; all working tirelessly, seven days a week. These are the most important rides we have provided in our history. The selfless efforts of the entire dedicated LIRR workforce and colleagues across MTA will be forever part of history. The tremendous uncertainty and pain that we feel, like others across the world, have been met with strength and compassion demonstrated by our actions.  

Christina tweeted, “Never thought I’d say this, but I actually miss the @LIRR trains.”  

Yes, Christina, there is light at the end of the (Penn Station) tunnel. We miss you too. The men and women of the LIRR are here for you.

The curve is flattening. Stay the course. We are all New York Tough!

Phillip Eng is president of the Long Island Rail Road.

This editorial first appeared in amNewYork.

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For more coronavirus coverage visit longislandpress.com/coronavirus

OpEd: LIRR Steps Up Efforts To Keep Riders Safe from COVID-19

A Car Appearance Maintainer with the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) demonstrates the disinfecting methods of a train car from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Hicksville Station on Long Island in New York, U.S., March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

At the Long Island Rail Road, our team has experience handling all types of situations: from hurricanes to power outages to managing massive amounts of infrastructure expansion. 

Pandemic? Not so much. But our workforce is rising to the challenge. 

As we adapt to this rapidly changing public health crisis, we cannot forget the thousands of transportation workers across the MTA’s agencies: the LIRR, Metro-North Railroad, and New York City Transit, who are working hard each day to keep our system open and safe for those who need to use it. 

Our workforce is on the frontlines, playing a key role in the response to this pandemic. We are making sure we are here for the heroes of this crisis, which include our own employees, as well as the nurses, the doctors, the police and first responders, the grocery store, pharmacy and transportation workers, and so many others who are helping us live. 

Together with our labor partners, we’re ensuring that employees and customers alike remain safe, as we maintain an aggressive, ramped-up cleaning schedule, disinfecting stations across the system twice daily, and getting to each one of our train cars (more than 1,000) at least once every 72 hours. 

Read the full OpEd at amNewYork.com

Eng is president of the Long Island Rail Road.

LIRR President: Progress Being Made at Your Stations

LIRR Train Driver
A lone passenger boards a Long Island Rail Road train in Long Beach (Joe Abate).

Did you know the Long Island Rail Road owns and operates on 516 miles of track? That’s not including an additional 110 miles of track in our yards and sidings.

Our complex infrastructure includes countless signal systems, switches, track circuits, and more all of which need to be maintained for smooth operations. For 2020, we have laid out an aggressive schedule to tackle even more maintenance so we stay on top of what’s needed to deliver the service our customers deserve.

Indeed, the LIRR is coming off a 2019 filled with improvements: from an unprecedented amount of maintenance and construction work and carrying modern-record ridership while still delivering on-time performance gains — to launching new customer-service initiatives, and increasing customer and community outreach.

We continued that trend of success last month, when we posted the highest January on-time performance since 2012.

I want to let you know that we are not resting on these numbers we’ve only just begun.

This will mark another year of major infrastructure and capital accomplishments, all while we strive to improve customer service for our ridership at 91.1 million, and growing.

In the first six weeks of the year, we’ve already accomplished several critical tasks: seven new switches installed; four miles of track resurfaced; constructing north track siding in Hicksville; and, on the Atlantic Branch, approximately 20,000 feet of continuous welded rail, while also supporting the LIRR Expansion Project, and Amtrak’s improvements at Penn Station. Other major projects that we support, like East Side Access and Moynihan Train Hall, remain steadfastly underway.

Read the full column at amny.com

Phillip Eng is president of the MTA Long Island Rail Road

LIRR President: What’s Going On At Your Station?

LIRR's diesel electric No. 421 passing the site of the former Bayport Station on the Montauk Line on Nov. 27, 2010. (Photo by Lexcie)

Editor’s note: The MTA Long Island Rail Road is beginning a monthly column featured in amNewYork Metro focused on LIRR issues and improvements, written by Phillip Eng, the railroad’s president. 

Since joining the Long Island Rail Road, my focus has been on improving the customer experience while delivering a safe, reliable and comfortable trip.

I’ve found the best way to do this is to truly listen to our riders. As a native Long Islander, working to improve public transportation for my neighbors is my life’s greatest honor. I want you to know that I take your feedback to heart every single day, and I take our responsibility to make rail travel an attractive choice for commuters very seriously.

I know our LIRR workforce does too. Our workers are embedded in the communities we serve, and we all take pride in knowing that our work impacts hundreds of thousands of people daily. As public servants, it’s our duty to deliver excellence.

Over the last two years we’ve refocused efforts on how to rebuild public trust by delivering results. I’m proud to report LIRR’s on-time performance hit a three-year high in 2019 at 92.4%, while we performed an unprecedented amount of work across the system, all while carrying 91.1 million riders in 2019 – a modern-day record. This trifecta brings momentum we will continue to build on in 2020.

To read the rest of this new monthly column by LIRR President Phillip Eng, visit amNewYork Metro