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LIRR riders see smooth PM commute after return of service

Commuters board a westbound train at the Long

Commuters board a westbound train at the Long Island Rail Road station in Mineola on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. "Full service has been restored on all LIRR branches," the LIRR said in an alert at 5 a.m. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Long Island Rail Road bounced back to nearly normal service Tuesday, with all of its branches running on or close to schedule for the first time since Saturday’s historic snowstotm shut down the nation’s busiest commuter railroad.

Wednesday looked even more promising. Relatively warm temperatures Tuesday helped melt some of the more than 2 feet of snow that blanketed the Island on Saturday, shut down the railroad completely through Sunday, and created havoc Monday morning as it tried to resume service for the rush hour.

Just before 8 a.m. during Monday’s rush hour, the LIRR told customers its trains “were on or close to schedule” systemwide.

“Things went well,” LIRR spokesman Salvatore Arena said. “We did have minor delays all morning in the 5-10 minute range, there were certainly more delays than a normal day, but no long duration delays and just three cancellations. ... ridership appeared near normal.”

The evening commute was relatively uneventful, too, with few reported delays and no cancellations, the railroad said.

It was a different world from the often-nightmarish commute many Long Islanders endured Monday amid delays, cancellations, packed trains and jammed platforms.

“It was a smooth ride,” Matthew Maryles of Cedarhurst said about 7:30 a.m. after riding the Far Rockaway branch into Penn Station. “I didn’t know if the train was running.”

He said he checked the LIRR websites early Monday. “The LIRR is known for being non-communicative. If it was married, it would be divorced,” he said, laughing at his own joke.

Scattered delays of about 10 minutes between Jamaica and Penn Station occurred Tuesday morning. Some 46 of 144 morning peak-hour trains experienced delays of 6 to 27 minutes, Arena said. The average delay was 9 minutes.

The Far Rockaway line, along with Hempstead, West Hempstead and Brooklyn to Atlantic Terminal, were the four that remained out of service Monday out of 12 total lines. Tuesday, they were all brought back, making life easier for commuters like Maryles. The first trains began their run about 5 a.m.

Those four lines accounted for the bulk of the service disruptions besides the Jamaica-Penn Station ones Tuesday morning, with Hempstead and West Hempstead customers both experiencing train cancellations, LIRR spokeswoman Meredith Daniels said.

It took some 2,000 LIRR employees to reopen the four remaining branches while also addressing “ongoing weather issues on the lines already operating,” Arena said.

After venting frustration Monday for long delays and cancellations, many commuters Tuesday seemed relieved to get back into a more normal trip to the city.

At Penn Station, Ciara Lunghi, 24, of Massapequa, described her commute, taking the 7:27 a.m. train from Babylon as “actually normal. My train didn’t have any delays.”

Valerie Zeis, a passenger in Huntington, shrugged off a loudspeaker’s announcement of 10-minute delays from Jamaica to Penn Station as she waited to board the 7:37 a.m. train.

That was much better than the lack of scheduled trains and reports of frozen lines that had made her give up on Monday’s commute and return home.

“I think they do their best,” said Zeis, 56, a Huntington resident who is vice president of merchandising for a fabric company in Manhattan. The LIRR is “not perfect” but it gets her to and fro.

“It is what it is,” she said.

Mother Nature, after pummeling the region Saturday, lent a helping hand Tuesday by providing relatively warm temperatures that melted some of the snow, said Carlie Buccola, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Upton.

The high Tuesday was 47 at Islip, where the snow level dropped from 23 inches on Sunday to 14 inches by 7 a.m. Tuesday. Buccola said more melting occurred throughout the day Tuesday, and with a high of 43 predicted for Wednesday that would continue.

Tuesday’s evening commute went well for most Long Islanders — in contrast to Monday’s debacle.

Colleen Corbett, 45, arrived in Long Beach on the 5:06 p.m. train from Penn Station. Monday, instead of taking the train, Corbett, an office manager, had a friend drive her to Rockville Centre where she caught a bus to work. She said it added an additional 20 minutes to her commute, but that she wasn’t too inconvenienced.

“It’s unavoidable during a snowstorm,” she said of the delays. “It’s good to see everything up and running.”

In Hicksville Tuesday morning, a steady stream of trains arrived and departed during the rush hour. On platform signs announcing the status of trains, red letters often flashed “on time.”

Parking fields were nearly full, and motorists circled lots hoping for unoccupied parking spaces.

After Monday’s troubles, some commuters arrived extra early at stations, anticipating problems that for the most part never materialized.

Angela Kaniecki, of Oyster Bay, spent six and a half hours commuting to her job as a college counselor in Manhattan on Monday. Tuesday, she showed up at the Ronkonkoma station more than a half-hour early for her 8:26 a.m. train — just in case.

With Rachel Uda, Laura Blasey, Víctor Manuel Ramos and Maria Alvarez

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