Schumer seeks LIRR rider bill of rights

Passengers wait behind a police barricade at Penn

Passengers wait behind a police barricade at Penn Station. (September 29, 2011) (Credit: Craig Ruttle)

Sen. Charles Schumer called on the Long Island Rail Road Monday to enact a "commuter bill of rights" to better inform them about service disruptions such as the lightning strike that knocked out Jamaica station's signal system last month.

Schumer (D-N.Y.) held a news conference at the Mineola LIRR station to propose the measure. It would require the LIRR to notify passengers of delays, provide information on alternative transit options and let passengers off stranded cars.

In a statement, Schumer's office said the bill of rights would be "similar to a passenger's bill of rights established for the airline industry, to provide baseline protections for passengers of Long Island's commuter rail system." Specifics were not released and it was unclear whether such rules would be mandated or require state legislative action.

Mark Epstein, chairman of the LIRR Commuter Council, a watchdog group that advocates for commuters, applauded Schumer for addressing the plight of passengers. But, he said, his group is waiting for details of the proposal.

"The question is what form it takes and how it would be enforced," Epstein said.

At the news conference, Schumer plans to be joined by William Henderson, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's internal watchdog group, the MTA's Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee.

Concern over passenger notification has peaked in the wake of at least 12 major service disruptions on the LIRR since August 2010.

On Sept. 29, an afternoon lightning strike to the controls of Jamaica's new $56 million signal and switching system all but shut down the nation's largest commuter railroad, causing thousands of passengers in several trains to be stranded for hours.

The office of the MTA inspector general said last week that it is investigating the LIRR's response to the incident.

LIRR officials have said they tried to keep customers informed during the service disruptions through announcements from conductors on board trains and constant email alerts.

The LIRR also has defended the decision to keep customers on board the stranded trains, saying that evacuating them onto the tracks would have been dangerous and also would have delayed repairs to the system. During the disruption, some passengers climbed out of the stranded trains, forcing the temporary shut down of the electrified third rail.

A LIRR spokesman declined to comment Sunday, saying Schumer's proposal had not been made available to the railroad. With Jennifer Barrios

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Newsday on social media

@Newsday

advertisement | advertise on newsday