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LIRR puts 68 trains back in service, but some riders still left confused, frustrated

Eastbound commuters were stranded at the Patchogue Long

Eastbound commuters were stranded at the Patchogue Long Island Rail Road station on Monday morning. Credit: Laurie Schoeman

The LIRR added 68 trains back to its schedule Monday, but that didn’t prevent confusion and frustration among some riders — including dozens of commuters stranded in Patchogue for more than an hour.

Following a public backlash to a scaled-back service plan that on March 8 reduced weekday service to near-weekend levels, the Long Island Rail Road now has restored most of its previous schedule — increasing capacity for riders who complained of crowded conditions because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement, LIRR president Phillip Eng said he was pleased "that today's restoration of additional service has helped give our customers more peace of mind with more options and space."

LIRR officials said there were no crowding issues Monday morning, as riders took advantage of the added trains.

Far different from the outcry the LIRR received the day the cuts took effect, some riders took to social media on Monday to thank the railroad for bringing their trains back.

"Thank you!" William Hammond tweeted to the LIRR. "My morning commute is already better than it has been the last few weeks."

"So much better this morning," another commuter said in a Twitter post.

With ridership still down by about 75% compared to pre-pandemic levels, the railroad last month moved to "right-size" service levels by cutting dozens of trains from its schedule. Railroad officials said the move would save millions of dollars in operating expenses, and also free up track capacity to advance important infrastructure projects.

The reduced schedule was supposed to stay in place through at least Memorial Day, but the railroad quickly ditched the plan following widespread complaints by commuters, labor leaders and elected officials, including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Some commuters appeared confused by the latest weekday schedule change — the third since January. "When you change the entire train schedule every other week, you may want to let passengers know," Roy Schwartz wrote on Twitter.

The railroad responded to him, saying it "ramped up announcements and messages about the new timetable changes" starting a week ago, including on it its mobile app and through email and text alerts.

The LIRR received other complaints Monday morning: from Hamptons-bound riders after a train departed Babylon without waiting for a connecting train. Passengers were sent to Patchogue to wait for a bus to take them the rest of the way.

Laurie Schoeman, 41, of Brooklyn, said she and her young son had to wait 80 minutes for the bus to arrive.

"I’m upset about this because the people waiting are workers trying to get to their jobs," Schoeman said. "Those using public transit right now need to be able to depend on service … Many people like myself can’t afford cars."

In a statement, LIRR spokesman said the problem was due to "a human error for which we apologize."

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