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Long Island

State comptroller backs commuter perceptions on LIRR delays

Commuters board the LIRR in Mineola on Friday,

Commuters board the LIRR in Mineola on Friday, April 7, 2017. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Dear Long Island Rail Road Commuter,

You have been vindicated.

Think your commute is a drag? Well, the state comptroller’s office, in a report released Wednesday, includes indications plentiful enough to back you up.

In short, it’s not your imagination. That difficult commute — especially during some peak times and on some peak trains — is real.

The comptroller’s office, in digging deep to tap into the source of your pain, brushed aside the LIRR’s definition of what constitutes an “on-time” train.

The LIRR says that getting to your designation five minutes and 59 seconds late counts as being on time. Ah, but according to Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli — who, as a resident of Great Neck Plaza, surely has firsthand experience riding the nation’s largest commuter rail — those on-time figures don’t reflect the customers experience.

Delays caused by trains canceled or terminated en route to their destination, according to the report, cost commuters time — calculated to be more than $60 million worth of lost productivity.

The comptroller’s analysis was based on LIRR activity in 2016 — a year in which the railroad carried 89.3 million riders.

That was the highest ridership since 1949, when Long Island was growing in lockstep with the nation’s post-recession, post-World War II boom — which birthed everything from the first color televisions and 45-RPM records to the first soap opera (“These Are My Children”) and Western (“HopAlong”) broadcast on major TV stations.

Ironically, in 1949, the LIRR, which was beginning to see dwindling profits under previous ownership, ended up going into receivership. But its fortunes improved after New York State began subsidizing the railroad in the 1950s and 60s, ultimately making it part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

But we digress.

Last year, the most frequently canceled train was the 6:05 p.m. from Penn Station to Wantagh — which ended up not going anywhere almost 11 percent of the time. Tied for second on the cancellation list were the 6:30 p.m. from Penn to Huntington and the 6:11 p.m. to Port Jefferson.

Cancellations during peak periods cost commuters on average of an extra half-hour in delays. (The comptroller, alas, couldn’t quantify other indicators, such as stress.)

As for worst on-time performance, eight of the Top Ten were confined to two branches, Port Jefferson and Babylon. Longest delayed? That was the 4:06 p.m. from Port Washington to Penn Station on July 25, 2016, which, because of signal problems, didn’t get to Manhattan until more than four hours later.

What’s up with delays and cancellations, which — more than on-time performance — make so many commutes awful? The LIRR says it was responsible 30 percent of the time; customers were tagged with the second biggest — for chewing up time boarding and leaving trains (by, for example, having to move from one car to another when train doors opened only on some platforms).

Worst on-time performance during morning peak hours? That would be the 5:39 a.m. from Montauk to Long Island City, which hit the mark only 57.9 percent of the time. Worst during evening hours? That’s the 6:24 p.m. from Penn Station to Port Washington.

There was one bright spot, however — the 6:28 a.m. from Far Rockaway to Atlantic Terminal, which delivered its 500 customers on time 100 percent of the time.

Wouldn’t it be grand if every other commute was the same?

But that’s not going to happen, in part because there’s damage still to be repaired from superstorm Sandy.

Still, the LIRR can do better. And a good start would be some better way of reflecting back what really happens during too many commutes.

If the comptroller can bridge that gap, the railroad can, too.

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