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LIRR’s Babylon branch is biggest money-waster, group says

Passengers wait for a delayed Manhattan-bound train at

Passengers wait for a delayed Manhattan-bound train at the Babylon station on Jan. 25, 2016. For the third straight year, the branch has been named the LIRR's biggest money-waster by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. Credit: Steve Pfost

And the Laggy goes to . . . the Babylon line.

For the third straight year, the LIRR’s busiest branch earned the dubious distinction of being the railroad’s biggest money-waster in the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s annual Laggy Awards.

The Laggys recognize the Long Island Rail Road lines with the greatest lost economic productivity, delay per rider and lost time.

With $25.6 million in lost economic productivity from June 2014 to June 2015, the Babylon line took home the gold in that category. The Ronkonkoma and Huntington lines earned silver and bronze with $19.8 million and $17.9 million, respectively, in lost productivity.

In total, the LIRR lost $106 million in economic productivity over the 12-month period — an “alarming amount of money” that shows the need to invest in the LIRR’s outdated infrastructure, Tri-State Transportation Campaign executive director Veronica Vanterpool said.

“When you think about that much money being lost over 12 months, it delivers the message that there’s this significant economic cost to not making the necessary investments,” Vanterpool said.

The campaign developed its methodology for the Laggys using LIRR figures on ridership and on-time performance as well as “Census-derived income assumptions” on the value of lost time.

Babylon also took top honors in the category of hours of delay at 447,826 hours annually. Ronkonkoma came in second with 345,697 hours, and Huntington third with 312,754 hours.

The Port Jefferson branch had the greatest delays per rider at 26.3 hours annually, followed by Huntington at 24.1 hours and Ronkonkoma at 22.7 hours.

Vanterpool said three projects that would make a big difference in the LIRR’s performance could be funded in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposed 2015-2019 Capital Program — the completion of a second track between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma, construction of a third track between Floral Park and Hicksville, and the East Side Access link to Grand Central Terminal. Although Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has pledged his support for the plan, the state is yet to approve it or explain how it would pay for it.

LIRR spokesman Aaron Donovan said the agency appreciates the campaign’s advocacy for the MTA’s proposed Capital Program, and noted that several other projects are in the works to address the railroad’s timeliness, including upgrading of the signal system near Babylon station and building an additional train storage track in Massapequa. Donovan also noted that on-time performance improved in January and February as compared to the same months last year.

“We at the LIRR will never stop working to improve our performance,” Donovan said.

The 2016 Laggy Awards

Lost Productivity Laggy

Gold: Babylon Branch, $ 25,638,016

Silver: Ronkonkoma Branch, $19,791,160

Bronze: Huntington Branch, $17,905,140

Hours of Delay Laggy

Gold: Babylon, 447,826 hours

Silver: Ronkonkoma, 345,697 hours

Bronze: Huntington, 312,754 hours

Rider Delay Laggy

Gold: Port Jefferson, 26.3 hours

Silver: Huntington, 24.1 hours

Bronze: Ronkonkoma, 22.7 hours

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