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New MTA committee to oversee LIRR, Metro-North

In a significant change in oversight at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, chief Jay Walder has created a new 12-member committee on the agency's board that will take up issues pertaining to the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad.

Previously, LIRR business was handled by the board's Long Island Committee, which also dealt with issues pertaining to Long Island Bus.

LI Bus now will be part of a new 13-member bus committee that will include the MTA's other bus companies in New York City.

The changes are slated to take effect in April.

The MTA's committees typically meet once a month in advance of a meeting of the full MTA board. Committee members make decisions on issues ranging from purchases to policy changes.

In an internal memo to MTA board members dated Tuesday, Walder said the changes will help make the MTA "more effective and more efficient."

MTA board member Mitchell Pally, who will co-chair the railroad committee and sit on the bus committee, said the change is worthwhile and will benefit both the LIRR and LI Bus.

"Obviously, the railroads are working much closer together than they ever have before. But I think we're going to try to take it to the next level," said Pally, of Stony Brook. "And I think putting Long Island Bus in a group with all the other bus companies allows everyone there to pay much better attention to just the bus system."

Pally said the move was not a step toward an eventual consolidation of the LIRR and Metro-North - a move he said was not realistic given several "operational, geographic and legal" hurdles. Walder has said he has no intention of merging the two railroads.

Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders agreed that the change "makes a lot of sense." She said efforts to have the two commuter railroads work more closely have led in recent years to several joint purchases, including those of train cars and diesel fuel.

The two railroads will be working even more closely at the 2016 launch of the MTA's East Side Access, which aims to connect the LIRR to Grand Central Terminal - a longtime Metro-North hub.

"I'm sure we have a lot to learn from each other," Anders said.

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