The Long Island Rail Road carried more riders in June than during any month in six years, the LIRR's president said Monday.
The 7.5 million rides taken on the LIRR last month represented a 5 percent increase over June 2013, Patrick Nowakowski said. There were increases of both rush-hour ridership and off-peak ridership.
Nowakowski said that trips to summer destinations, such as Long Beach, and to the Belmont Stakes drove some of those gains. Some 66,000 people rode the LIRR to and from the June 7 race -- a Belmont record.
The last month the LIRR had 7.5 million rides was October 2008.
After carrying 87.4 million people in 2008 -- the most ever -- the LIRR lost riders over the next three years, in part because of job losses related to the economic collapse, officials have said. But ridership has steadily increased since 2012. Last year the railroad carried 83.4 million riders -- more than any other commuter railroad in the United States.
"Ridership continues to be a good story, and we want to hopefully keep that progress going forward," Nowakowski said.
Keeping that customer growth, Nowakowski said, was one reason it was important to avoid an LIRR union strike. Eight LIRR unions reached a tentative deal with the MTA on July 17 to avoid a work stoppage.
A strike, Nowakowski said, "does nothing but drive riders away."
In a statement Monday, Kevin Law, president and chief executive of the Long Island Association, the region's largest business group, said, "Today's news reaffirms the LIRR is a critical asset to our region and investments made in the railroad to make it easier for people to get in and out of New York City will continue to increase ridership and strengthen our economy."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the date the strike was averted.