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Long Island

Group calls on LIRR to develop app focusing on rider safety

Passengers wait to board a Long Island Rail

Passengers wait to board a Long Island Rail Road train at the Ronkonkoma station Wednesday morning, Jan. 28, 2015. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

An LIRR riders group is calling on transportation officials to develop a smartphone application for commuters to report hazardous conditions such as snow-packed platforms and slippery stairs.

"If we see something, where do we say something?" said Mark Epstein, chairman of the Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council, which issued a news release Monday calling on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to clean up its act.

The group -- which is advocating the MTA develop an app that allows riders to take a snapshot of a station and send it to the MTA, and that it provide maintenance schedules of its facilities -- said untended stations go to the heart of one of the stated missions of the MTA: To keep riders safe.

"The MTA keeps saying safety is a No. 1 concern," Epstein said. "We just don't want anybody to get hurt. If they need more resources to protect the riders we want to make sure they get it. Our concern is more than just the snow but the general decline in safety."

MTA spokesman Salvatore Arena said in an email the agency can't immediately scoop up snow before the morning commute when a storm hits, as one did Sunday night.

"LIRR employees have been working around the clock to clear snow and its residue from the Railroad's 124 stations in Nassau, Suffolk, Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan and from the various yards where trains are stored," Arena said. "By necessity, our busiest stations receive priority, but the severe cold and recurring storms have made it difficult to keep every station completely clear."

Along with the news release, the commuters group distributed a wide-angle photo of a commuter at the Greenvale station in Nassau County standing in several inches of snow Monday morning, with the platform and tracks blanketed.

But Epstein said the weather-related hazards are only part of the problem, citing unsanitary conditions in bathrooms and problems at the Hicksville station, where a monthslong problem persists in which only one of six doors is working for entry and exit.

Epstein said his group has raised the general safety issue with MTA authorities on several occasions, at the organization's monthly meetings and directly to LIRR officials -- but said nothing has been done.

Arena said the authority has long allowed people to alert them of trouble on the system.

"Our MTA customer email system allows customers to send attached photos," he said, noting and

"They also post reports and photos on the railroad's Facebook page and Twitter account or telephone or write letters. We hear from riders every day on every media platform and respond as quickly as we can. Our Public Information Office is staffed 24/7 and we make monthly public reports on maintenance and performance."

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