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LIRR survey: Riders more satisfied

A file photo of an LIRR train arriving

A file photo of an LIRR train arriving at a station. Credit: Kevin P Coughlin

Long Island Rail Road customers are more satisfied with their riding experience than they were a year ago -- or at least they're not as angry about it.

The LIRR's annual customer satisfaction survey, released Monday, found that 86 percent of riders are satisfied overall with LIRR service, up from 78 percent in 2011.

Of those, 21 percent said they were very satisfied, up from 17 percent last year. The survey, which is handed out to riders on trains, was completed by 7,182 LIRR customers in May and June.

LIRR president Helena Williams cited the improvement, but acknowledged at a Manhattan meeting Monday that the 2011 satisfaction numbers were "very low" because last year's survey was taken days after an Amtrak derailment in an East River tunnel. It caused a week of LIRR delays and cancellations. The railroad experienced other weather-related, major service disruptions in the months leading up to last year's survey.

"We're still not happy with where the overall rating is," Williams said. "We're looking to give them [riders] safe, secure and reliable train service. . . . We're going to look at where we can make improvements."

The newest survey results show lower numbers than those from 2010, when the LIRR reported 89 percent overall customer satisfaction. The LIRR said in the survey report that customer satisfaction is still lagging behind 2010 "as customers continue to feel the impact of the dramatic service reductions" made that year.

Customers on the Port Washington, Port Jefferson and Long Beach lines were most happy with service this year, with each reporting a 90 percent customer satisfaction rating.

Oyster Bay had the fewest number of satisfied customers: 79 percent, down from 85 percent last year. Williams said infrequent service and diesel equipment reliability problems on that line were to blame for the relatively low numbers.

Ira Greenberg, who represents the LIRR Commuter Council on the MTA board, said the survey illustrated the need for the railroad to better communicate with its riders, especially when something goes wrong. The survey reported that 71 percent of LIRR riders were satisfied with customer communication during an unplanned disruption -- one of the lowest marks in the survey.

"I think a lot of times passengers feel left out, and I think that's what the survey is showing," Greenberg said.

As in past surveys, the LIRR got its best grades for the performance of its employees. "Overall courtesy and responsiveness" received a 91 percent satisfaction rating. Conductors got 93 percent.

The railroad got the lowest ratings for cleanliness of its bathrooms. Only 59 percent of customers reported being satisfied.

MTA board member Mitchell Pally said he expects the responses to the bathroom cleanliness question -- a perennial low category -- would depend on whether the respondents were "the first person in the restroom or the second person in the restroom . . . after it leaves the station."

The LIRR Monday also reported that August marked the 12th consecutive month of increasing ridership after steady losses dating to the 2008 economic collapse.

The railroad carried 7.5 million people in August, up 9.4 percent from the same month in 2011. Officials said it was the biggest gain since June 2008 compared with June 2007.

But Williams said the increase had a lot to do with major service disruptions caused by Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011.Still, Williams said, a full year of adding riders "is a reflection of an improving economy."


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