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LIRR service to be restored systemwide by Tuesday AM rush, railroad chief says

LIRR passengers, some heading for a train after

LIRR passengers, some heading for a train after a track assignment was announced, deal wit the afternoon rush at Penn Station Monday, Jan. 25, 2015, as the LIRR train system still faced line outages due to the heavy snowstorm over the past weekend. Credit: Craig Ruttle

Frustrated commuters endured widescale Long Island Rail Road cancellations, delays and service interruptions Monday on the first weekday since a storm ripped up the East Coast and paralyzed Long Island — with effects that reverberated systemwide.

MTA President Patrick A. Nowakowski said late Monday that service systemwide will return for Tuesday’s morning rush — including on the Long Beach, Hempstead, Far Rockaway and West Hempstead branches, which did not operate at all on Monday.

“We expect to have all segments of all branches operating Tuesday morning, but customers should allow extra travel time and check for the potential for weather-related delays before traveling,” Nowakowski said in a release issued at about 10:30 p.m.

Trains also were expected to resume on the Atlantic branch, from Jamaica to Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, he said.

The snowstorm that left more than 2 feet on the Island’s roads wreaked havoc Monday on its rails.

Riders, crowded on platforms in biting cold, waited for hours during the morning rush and squeezed into trains — many struggling to get to jobs in the city. The evening commute saw sporadic delays and also was hampered by a brief smoke condition, even as LIRR officials were determining the impact of snow, ice and frigid temperatures on the Tuesday morning ride.

“This morning we were like sardines packed in the train. I figured it would be better on the way home. Guess I was wrong,” said Chino Gonzalez, 53, an auto mechanic from Shirley who was at the Mineola station Monday evening, trying to figure out how to get home.

Before Nowakowski’s update, service had been restored on the Babylon, Oyster Bay, Port Jefferson, Port Washington and Ronkonkoma branches, as well as on the entire Montauk branch and between Greenport and Ronkonkoma. Some branches were experiencing delays.

The line that serves Brooklyn’s Atlantic Terminal and East New York still was beset Monday night by service changes — but that was an improvement over earlier in the day, when trains serving that part of the city were suspended altogether.

After the chaotic morning commute, the Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council called on the LIRR to improve its communication with passengers. Many riders had complained of conflicting messages at stations and the lack of updates on the railroad’s website — with some expressing their displeasure on Twitter, Facebook and other social media online.

The advocacy group said it was “extremely disappointed in the completeness and accuracy of communication provided by the LIRR to its riders.”

While the council said it appreciated the efforts to restore service, “In many cases ... service announcements and alerts issued by the LIRR have not accurately reflected the service that is actually being provided.”

Commuters got some good news in midafternoon: Service on the Port Washington line — one of the LIRR’s big four branches — was restored in time for the Monday evening rush. Some trains were canceled, forcing evening commuters to crowd into later trains.

Port Washington resident Alok Jolly, 60, was one of about a dozen passengers on the first train to arrive from Penn Station at Port Washington, pulling in around 3:40 p.m.

A construction consultant, he had caught a train from Flushing, in Queens, to Penn Station. Monday morning, he carpooled to work.

“Coming back was smooth,” he said.

Traveling in the other direction, Port Washington commuter Chris Maliarakis, 41, was scheduled to depart for Penn Station at 4:06 p.m.

“I took a chance by coming here, not knowing if the train was going to be working or not,” he said.

A credit card processor, he worked from home Monday afternoon but had to be in Manhattan by nightfall to play in an adult basketball league.

Compounding the day’s confusion, sometime around 6 p.m., service going through Jamaica station was briefly suspended because of a smoke condition.

LIRR spokesman Salvatore Arena confirmed a fire alarm went off at a building adjacent to the station but said service there had been restored. As a result, the LIRR said at 6:20 p.m. that it was experiencing 20- to 30-minute delays through Jamaica in both directions because of the fire department activity.

“It’s very disheartening that my streets are plowed, but my trains aren’t running,” said Jacob Lafond, 30, of Mineola, who was at Penn Station during the evening rush. “This is not acceptable.”

Lafond got to Atlantic Terminal and discovered there was no train service in or out of there, and had to take a 30-minute subway ride to Penn Station to catch the LIRR.

Scores of tired commuters got off the train in Huntington on Monday night. Some said the ride back had not been as bad as the morning’s.

Lisa Conforte, a Kings Park resident who works in a lab in the city, said she waited to leave for work later and then returned home earlier to avoid crowds. In the morning, she departed from less-crowded Kings Park — then came back to Huntington because it had more frequent service. Her plan worked, mostly.

“It wasn’t frustrating for me,” Conforte said. “You have to have alternate routes.”

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