The Metropolitan Transportation Authority Monday released a new agencywide customer survey that allows, for the first time, a comparison of its sister railroads.
The result: Metro-North wins.
Overall, 89 percent of Long Island Rail Road riders said they were "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the railroad, compared with 93 percent on Metro-North.
Bathrooms on Metro-North's trains, however, are apparently dirtier.
Riders on both railroads expressed unhappiness with the state of the loos: Onboard bathrooms earned a 57 percent satisfaction rating on Metro-North and 64 percent on the LIRR.
Parking availability was the biggest complaint from LIRR riders, with a 62 percent satisfaction rating.
Speaking on riders' relative preference for Metro-North, LIRR president Helena Williams Monday noted LIRR operations are constrained at Penn Station, where a disabled Amtrak train can wreak havoc in the LIRR's schedule.
"We have nine tracks at Penn, Metro-North has 100 tracks at Grand Central," she said.
The punctuality of trains is closely linked to customer satisfaction, she said. The LIRR's on-time performance so far this year is 92.6 percent, down from 95.5 percent for the same period last year.
A switching station fire in August, and two tornadoes and a macroburst on the same September day didn't help, Williams said.
"We'll work hard in 2011 to push that number back up," she said, adding that the railroad will also look for ways to clean train bathrooms during the day.
The MTA last year took a hiatus from polling to develop a common scale for customer satisfaction across its railroads, subways, buses, bridges and tunnels.
On the new 10-point scale, 6 through 8 correspond to "satisfied" and 9 and 10 to "very satisfied."
LIRR riders were polled on trains in June by the Manhattan marketing firm ABT SRBI. Some 7,500 people responded.
The results form a new baseline and cannot be compared with previous surveys, railroad officials said.
The last survey, conducted in 2008, also showed an 89 percent satisfaction rate. On that scale, the numbers 4 through 7 corresponded to "satisfied" and 8 through 10 corresponded to "very satisfied."
This year, LIRR customers weighed in on categories from safety to signage.
Railroad employees earned high marks - 93 percent of riders were satisfied with their "courtesy and responsiveness."
Among the system's 11 branches, the Hempstead branch ranked first, satisfying 92 percent of riders.
The Oyster Bay branch, which features less reliable dual-mode diesel-electric engines, ranked last with 83 percent.
Overall, the railroad's communications efforts satisfied 85 percent of riders. Onboard communications during service descriptions satisfied 73 percent of riders, compared with 89 percent during normal service.
MTA customers were happier with the two commuter railroads than the system's other agencies.
The subway earned a 71 percent rating, bridges and tunnels earned 81 percent, and city buses came in last with 62 percent.