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LIRR commuters dealing with leaky trains, slippery floors

An eastbound bi-level Long Island Rail Road train

An eastbound bi-level Long Island Rail Road train pulled by diesel locomotives enters Jamaica station. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Commuter complaints about rain coming into train cars, leaving floors wet and slippery and riders occasionally soaked, is yet another problem facing the Long Island Rail Road.

“Nothing like a little rain shower inside your commute to work,” Christopher McCann tweeted Sept. 26, along with a video showing a steady stream of water falling through the roof of his train and puddling on the floor. “LIRR, is this really what we pay for?”

Many commuters have shared photos and videos on social media depicting water pouring into cars. LIRR officials last week acknowledged the problem of rain coming through windows and overhead vents, which they said is largely caused by two culprits: gaskets on emergency exit windows and ventilation systems. Officials said they have stepped up efforts to correct the problems. 

Leaks generally have occurred on the railroad's fleet of “C3” bi-level diesel train coaches, which make up 10 percent of the LIRR’s fleet of about 1,200 train cars. The 20-year-old cars have roof-mounted heating, ventilation and air conditioning units that easily can become clogged by debris — slowing drainage and allowing rainwater to collect and spill through vents.

The LIRR said rainwater also can enter train cars through the rubber gaskets of emergency exit windows, which are routinely removed for inspection. If the gaskets are not properly aligned, or if debris gets inside them, leakage can result, railroad officials said.

“If you sit next to a window, sometimes your arm gets totally soaked,” Central Islip commuter Joseph Gill said.

During one heavy rainstorm this month, commuter Rita Rosenfeld said she was sitting by a train window when she “started to feel dampness on my seat.”

“I quickly looked to my right and the seat was wet. Water was dripping down from the window,” said Rosenfeld, who commutes from Babylon and shared photos of her experience on Twitter. “Then I looked around. The floor was soaked already. Such a dangerous hazard.”

The rainwater problem is chronic, and commuters see it as part of a litany of issues facing the LIRR, which this year is on pace to deliver its worst on-time performance in 19 years. In addition, the average number of canceled LIRR trains each month in 2018 is the highest in at least 10 years and could worsen by the end of the year, according to a reporter from the office of state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

LIRR President Phillip Eng said "the occurrences of rainwater making its way into cars has decreased this year, as we’ve taken aggressive mitigation efforts." Those include regularly checking that HVAC drains are clear and emergency windows are properly replaced after inspections, he said.

“We are continuously tackling and addressing each issue we encounter with a new sense of urgency,” said Eng, who has overseen the recent implementation of his LIRR Forward service improvement initiative, as well as $6.6 billion in infrastructure projects. “This means consistency with proactive solutions to ensure we deliver the best customer experience possible. Our goal remains to provide a clean, comfortable ride, as our customers deserve nothing less.”

Part of improving that commuting experience, the LIRR has said, will be the introduction of the railroad’s first new fleet of train cars since 2002. Designed and manufactured by Kobe, Japan-based Kawasaki Rail Car, the “M9” trains will include several features, including electrical outlets on every row and 32-inch multimedia screens in each car.

The trains originally were set to begin rolling out this year, but Eng said recently the railroad now expects to have the first 92 cars in May. 

“We’re going to continue to work with the manufacturer to beat that schedule,” he said.

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