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Survey: LIRR troubles leave riders less satisfied than ever

Customer satisfaction dropped in 2017 among customers traveling

Customer satisfaction dropped in 2017 among customers traveling during every time period and on every Long Island Rail Road branch. Credit: Corey Sipkin

The Long Island Rail Road’s annual customer survey bears out what’s been known for a while now: LIRR riders are less satisfied with service than at any time in recent history.

The LIRR’s overall customer satisfaction rating of 77 percent was the lowest since the railroad began using a percentage scoring system in 2009, and a big drop from last year’s score of 84 percent. Riders’ dissatisfaction was particularly pronounced during rush hours, with the LIRR earning a rating of just 69 percent for peak periods, down from 77 percent last year.

The railroad received responses from 13,472 riders who took the survey between September and November of last year.

The railroad noted in its report that several factors in the months leading up to the survey could have contributed to some of the negative feedback, including “a number of significant service disruptions in the winter and spring,” “failing Penn Station infrastructure” that resulted in a cluster of major service problems in the spring, and Amtrak’s summerlong repairs at Penn that necessitated service changes on the LIRR.

However, the survey was conducted before the spate of service disruptions that plagued the LIRR in December and January. The latter month was the LIRR’s worst for on-time performance in 22 years, according to the railroad’s “Train Talk” newsletter.

The LIRR on Monday released a Performance Improvement Plan that included more than 60 initiatives aimed at reversing the railroad’s recent service woes.

LIRR president Patrick Nowakowski suggested Monday that the annual customer survey will be a key measure of the plan’s success.

“It is something that is certainly reflective of the dissatisfaction our customers feel,” Nowakowski said. “It’s something we need to move the bar on.”

Customer satisfaction dropped among customers traveling during every time period, including weekends, reverse commuters traveling to jobs on Long Island, and on every LIRR branch. Satisfaction was lowest among riders on the Babylon and Ronkonkoma lines, which tied at 71 percent, dropping about 10 points.

The Montauk branch saw the biggest drop in satisfaction year over year — from 88 percent last year to 74 percent this year. The railroad attributed the decline to “extensive track work and signal improvements performed in 2017.”

As usual, LIRR bathrooms got the lowest scores, and LIRR employees got the highest. Only 35 percent of customers reported being satisfied with the “cleanliness of restrooms” on trains, while 92 percent of riders were satisfied with train conductors and their appearance.

Anthony Simon, general chairman of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Union, which represents LIRR conductors, called the survey a “true indication” of LIRR employees’ professionalism, even during the worst of times.

“It never surprises me that no matter what operational struggles the railroad faces, our front-line crews are consistently praised and appreciated by our customers,” Simon said. “We thank our customers for their support and will continue to strive to make those numbers even higher.”

The LIRR also announced Tuesday that it was postponing the first stop in its “LIRR Listens Tour” at Penn Station Wednesday because of the expected snowstorm.

The tour — part of the LIRR’s Performance Improvement Plan — aims to give commuters an opportunity to provide valuable feedback on service to top railroad managers. No new date for the Penn Station event has been scheduled.

LIRR customer satisfaction survey


2017: 77 percent

2016: 84 percent

Peak hours

2017: 69 percent

2016: 77 percent

On-time performance

2017: 73 percent

2016: 79 percent

Value for the money

2017: 57 percent

2016: 62 percent

Penn Station overall

2017: 75 percent

2016: 79 percent

Communication overall

2017: 76 percent

2016: 81 percent

Communication during unplanned service disruptions

2017: 62 percent

2016: 68 percent

Lowest satisfaction by branch: (Tie) Ronkonkoma and Babylon, 71 percent

Highest satisfaction by branch: (Tie) Port Washington, Far Rockaway and Long Beach, 81 percent

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