Long Island Rail Road trains were late more often in July than any month in 2019, but it was still an improvement over the same month last year, according to new figures.
LIRR president Phillip Eng, at a special meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board on Friday, reported the railroad’s on-time performance rate for July as 89.9 percent — the lowest monthly figure this year, but an improvement of 1 percentage point from July of last year, when 88.9 percent of trains ran on time.
The LIRR considers a train late if it arrives at its final destination more than five minutes and 59 seconds after its scheduled time.
In July, the railroad performed worst during the evening peak commute, during which 87.8 percent of trains ran on time. Its on-time rate during the morning peak period was 89.8 percent.
LIRR officials pointed to various incidents, including Verizon utility wires being down on the tracks near Bayside, heavy storms, and a trespasser inside one of the East River Tunnels on July 26.
Eng has suggested the recent dip and on-time performance is also due to the railroad taking on a record amount of infrastructure improvements and maintenance work this summer — necessitating track outages and resulting in delays and cancellations.
Those include the installation last month of a new bridge at Urban Avenue in Westbury that replaced a grade crossing, and this past weekend’s installation of a new bridge at South Tyson Avenue. Eng said the railroad also has replaced hundreds of rail ties in recent weeks, completed drainage work at some locations, and replaced track switches.
“We do know that balancing our heavy construction season and high levels of service does come with challenges, with slowed speeds through some construction zones for safety, and single-tracking along some of our busiest stretches,” said Eng, who noted that, year-to-date, the LIRR’s on-time performance has improved to 93 percent, as compared to 90 percent during the first seven months of 2018.
“Looking at the numbers as a whole, we are seeing a consistent improvement as compared to years past, and this is on top of a growing ridership," he said, "Year-to-date, our ridership has increased by over 1 million riders compared to 2018.”
The heavy construction work, and associated service disruptions, will continue this weekend when the railroad erects a new bridge at Covert Avenue in New Hyde Park — another of the seven grade crossing eliminations slated as part of the railroad’s $2.6 billion effort to construct a third track between Floral Park and Hicksville. The project will require a suspension of service between New Hyde Park and Hicksville throughout Saturday and Sunday.
Rockville Centre commuter Michael Leboff, 29, said he didn’t appreciate the railroad “blaming construction” for its recent service problems.
“Don't make up excuses and pass the buck. Take responsibility and be up front with the people you are supposed to be serving,” said Leboff, who blasted the railroad for inadequate communication with customers during unplanned service issues. “At this point, I think the LIRR is in the business of saving face rather than the business of reliably transporting people from point A to point B.”
LIRR ON-TIME PERFORMANCE