LIRR riders are slightly more satisfied with service, according to a new survey, but some commuters and advocates say the railroad’s frequent disruptions and poor performance don’t match the findings.
On Monday, the first workday since the LIRR’s latest fare increase went into effect — and after several major rush-hour hiccups in recent days — the Long Island Rail Road released its 2016 Customer Satisfaction Survey. It showed that 84 percent of riders were satisfied with overall service, up from 82 percent in 2015, and that the percentage of customers who said they were “very satisfied” held steady at 20 percent.
Peak, weekday-off peak, and weekend off-peak riders all reported being more satisfied in 2016 than in the prior year.
“It does show an upswing in our overall customer satisfaction,” LIRR president Patrick Nowakowski said at a Monday meeting of the MTA’s LIRR Committee in Manhattan. “Last year we also had an improvement in our on-time performance. So I think that one had to do with the other.”
The LIRR in June surveyed 15,314 riders on 112 trains, including peak, off-peak and reverse peak time. The railroad said the sampling was weighted to reflect ridership levels at different times of day and on different lines, and that the results have a margin of error of 1.1 percent. The LIRR has an average weekday ridership of about 305,000.
Most LIRR fares went up by about 3.75 percent on Sunday, except monthly tickets, which go up in April.
According to LIRR stats, 92.7 percent of the LIRR’s trains were on time in 2016. That’s better than the 15-year low of 91.6 percent, in 2015.
The Far Rockaway and Montauk lines drew the best satisfaction ratings at 87 and 88 percent, respectively. Both lines climbed 8 percentage points from 2015.
The Port Jefferson and Long Beach branches also saw sizable improvements in customer satisfaction, which the railroad attributed to “recently completed track work and signal improvements.”
The Ronkonkoma and Hempstead lines did worst in the survey, each earning an 81 percent satisfaction rating.
Syosset commuter Jason Chanin said he is “highly unsatisfied” with the LIRR, which he said got him home 74 minutes late Friday evening, and he believes most fellow commuters feel the same.
“Anyone I speak with that takes LIRR every day is unhappy with their service,” said Chanin, 33, who added that the LIRR’s stats are “not even close to reality.”
LIRR Commuter Council chairman Mark Epstein said the survey’s findings may show that riders are simply getting used to the railroad’s poor performance.
“I think people may be more resigned to ‘the system is the system,’ and maybe their expectations of it getting better have been lowered,” Epstein said. ““ ‘The fares are going to go up. The trains are going to be late.’ I don’t think they’re more satisfied. They’re just learning to live with it, which is not the way it should be.”
Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), a vocal critic of the LIRR in recent months, also said the LIRR’s 84 percent satisfaction rating is at odds with what he hears from constituents who tell him “the recent wave of cancellations and delays is the worst they have seen in years.”
As usual, the LIRR scored best in questions about its train crews. The LIRR earned a satisfaction rating of 93 percent in the category of “professional appearance of conductors,” and 92 percent “courtesy and responsiveness of conductors.”
In a letter, Anthony Simon, general chairman of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Union, thanked members for representing their craft well. The union represents LIRR conductors. “Your professionalism and dedication does not go unnoticed,” Simon wrote.
And, as usual, the LIRR scored worst in questions about train restrooms: 41 percent for “cleanliness” and 45 percent for “physical condition.” Both were improvements over 2015.
LIRR Customer Satisfaction Survey Highlights
2016: 84 percent
2015: 82 percent
2016: 77 percent
2015: 76 percent
2016: 80 percent
2015: 78 percent
2016: 79 percent
2015: 78 percent
Value for the money:
2016: 62 percent
2015: 61 percent
2016: 81 percent
2015: 82 percent
Communication during unplanned service disruptions:
2016: 68 percent
2015: 69 percent
Recent LIRR service problems:
Friday, March 17: Two work trains collide on the tracks near Mineola, leaving one disabled on the tracks for hours and causing numerous cancellations and major delays into the evening rush hour.
Monday, March 6: An Amtrak switch problem inside one of the East River tunnels reduces the LIRR’s track capacity by half during the evening rush hour, resulting in nearly two dozen canceled trains, a suspension of all westbound service, and lengthy delays.
Wednesday, Feb. 8: A Huntington-bound train derails at Jamaica, striking a station platform and taking out the station’s signal and electrified third-rail system during the morning rush hour. Full repairs took several days to complete.