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Long Island

LIRR passenger risk higher than other area rail lines

Passengers on the Long Island Rail Road run a higher risk of injury than those on other rail divisions in the metropolitan area -- Metro-North, NJ Transit and the New York City subways -- accident data for each of the lines show.

According to Metropolitan Transportation Authority and NJ Transit data on injuries including slips on ice, stumbles on escalators and falls through platform gaps, LIRR riders had the highest rate of accidents in 2004 and 2005 compared with the other three rails. And in the past decade -- from 1996 through 2005 -- it had either the highest or second-highest rate of accidents compared with the other three rails.

For example, in 2005, the last full year data were available, 419 LIRR passengers, or 5.2 passengers per million, were injured, the statistics show. This rate represents about a 58 percent greater risk of injury than NJ Transit, a 68 percent greater rate compared with the subways, and more than double the risk compared with Metro-North.

Moreover, serious injuries -- those that require more than just basic first aid and must be reported to the Federal Railroad Administration -- increased at the LIRR from 43 in 2000 to 132 in 2004, according to the railroad. NJ Transit's numbers for those years also increased, but at a lower rate. In 2000, NJ Transit said it reported 29 serious injuries to the Federal Railroad Administration. In 2004, 53 were reported. Meanwhile, Metro-North said that the number of serious injuries it reported to the Federal Railroad Administration fell from 89 in 2000 to 81 in 2004. The Federal Railroad Administration does not monitor the subways.

When asked about the overall higher rates for accidents on the LIRR compared with Metro-North, LIRR spokeswoman Susan McGowan said her railroad has a greater number of busy transfer hubs and terminals.

LIRR has 124 passenger stations that in 2005 served 80.1 million riders; Metro-North has 120 stations for its 74.6 million passengers in 2005; NJ Transit has 162 stations that in 2005 served 66.9 million riders; and the subways have 468 stations that served 2.2 billion passengers.

Over the past decade, McGowan points out, the LIRR has been able to reduce its customer accident rate by about 50 percent. The LIRR had a decade-high injury rate of 10.36 per million passengers in 1996, according to the MTA data. In that year, there were 770 customer injuries, the LIRR's latest data show.

While the LIRR has gotten safer overall since 1995, passengers are more prone to suffer an injury because of a gap fall, according to the statistics. In 1995, the 70 gap accidents made up 10.3 percent of the customer injuries. In 2005, gap injuries were at least 16.2 percent of the customer injuries.

It's difficult to get an exact accounting of the 2005 numbers because while an LIRR database for 2005 shows 68 gap falls, the railroad's accident reports indicate that there were 81 gap incidents that year.

LIRR officials have attributed the accounting differences to late filing of accident reports by passengers. The officials also said that some incidents were caused by a variety of factors -- such as a platform slip -- and so they were classified in a category other than a gap fall.

In comparison to NJ Transit and its sister rails -- Metro-North and the subways -- the LIRR had the most gap incidents from 2003 through 2005. The LIRR database and accident reports combined show that the railroad had 73 gap falls in 2003 and 70 in 2004.

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