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Senators call for deep audit of LIRR's performance, spending

The Democratic state senators from Long Island say the LIRR, which is part of the MTA, isn't honest about how often its trains are late. 

Commuters at the Hicksville LIRR station make their

Commuters at the Hicksville LIRR station make their way across the platform during the evening rush hour Sept. 5, 2018. Several state senators are calling for a major audit of the MTA because of what they called overcrowded and dirty conditions on the Long Island Rail Road. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

ALBANY — Several state senators representing Long Island on Friday called for a major audit of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority because of what they said were frequently overcrowded and dirty conditions on the Long Island Rail Road.

“It’s the service and cost,” said Sen. James Gaughran (D-Huntington), who appeared with other Democratic senators on the Hicksville LIRR station platform. “We really need to do this forensic audit because it is out of control.”

The lawmakers said the LIRR, which is part of the MTA, isn’t honest about how often its trains are late. They said the railroad often asserts that trains that are a few minutes late actually are on time.

“What does ‘on time’ mean?” asked Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach). “When your boss knows you are getting to your meeting four minutes late can you tell them  you are going on LIRR time and it’s OK? It’s not.”

The MTA defended its record and its plans to improve service.

“The MTA is aggressively cutting costs, with a $500 million reduction target for this year alone, while at the same time working hard to improve service quickly, and for the long term," said Aaron Donovan, deputy communications of director of the MTA.

The LIRR Forward plan identified delays, the causes and ways to fix them. Donovan said the LIRR's on-time performance improved in December and January with greater improvements expected this year. He said the LIRR has also prioritized the cleanliness of train cars and restrooms. He also said a proposed increase in state funding will reduce delays and improve cars, stations and tracks.

The legislators proposed an "MTA Rail Act" to be included in the state budget that is under negotiation and is due April 1.

The legislation calls for an independent, comprehensive audit of the MTA. The auditors would be responsible for investigating fraud, practices for budgeting salaries, conflicts of interest in hiring and contracting, and spending on design and construction.

The audit would be separate from the evaluation of the MTA that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is seeking. Cuomo wants to overhaul the MTA, suggesting that it wastes money and overestimates the cost of long-needed repairs and improvements to the subway system and the LIRR.

“The governor is laser-focused on funding and fixing the MTA, which is why he’s put forward a comprehensive 10-point plan that includes an independent audit," said Cuomo spokesman Jason Conwall. 

The proposal also is backed by State Sens. John Brooks (D-Seaford); Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck); Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood); and Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown).

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