The MTA’s vice chairman Wednesday acknowledged that the Long Island Rail Road’s communications with customers — during and after Saturday’s historic snowstorm — fell short, and promised the agency would do better in the future.
At a Manhattan meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board, Fernando Ferrer told reporters that some confusion riders felt after the storm was “our fault.”
“We could always do communication better,” said Ferrer, standing in for MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast, who has been sidelined by an undisclosed medical condition. “We’re looking at lessons learned that we could apply to how we move forward.”
The LIRR suspended service systemwide Saturday afternoon, as mounting snow and freezing track switches impaired the agency’s ability to safely run trains. The storm dumped more than 2 feet of snow on the Island.
On Sunday, the MTA said seven of 12 LIRR branches — Port Washington, Oyster Bay, Port Jefferson, Ronkonkoma, Huntington, Babylon and Greenport — would be up and running by 5 a.m., in time for the Monday morning rush. But about 5 a.m., the agency announced it would not be ready to run trains until 7 a.m., and not at all on one of those branches, Port Washington. Service on that line finally came back about 3 p.m.
While the railroad restored service to most customers by Monday morning, some riders complained about the lack of reliable information about scheduling, delays, and when service would resume.
The LIRR restored full service on all lines Tuesday morning.
The LIRR Commuter Council noted that information provided by the LIRR through train crews, station announcements, text and email alerts, and digital signs often conflicted, and did not reflect the level of service that was actually running.
Ferrer, who took part in agency conference calls throughout the storm, spoke of the challenges of providing reliable information while “things were changing pretty quickly.”
“Sometimes you have information, you try to move it out in real time, and you can’t pull back ... when conditions change,” Ferrer said. “We’ll try to do that better next time.”
The LIRR has promised to deliver a report on its storm response, including lessons the agency learned, next month.
Commuter Council Chairman Mark Epstein said he was “heartened” by Ferrer’s comments, and offered his group’s help in finding ways to make LIRR messages to customers clearer and more meaningful.
“It’s the quality of it. It’s the wording. Some of the wording is not really rider-friendly. It’s MTA corporate wording,” said Epstein, adding that the timing of messages is also important. “Sending someone an alert a minute before the train is going to come in really doesn’t do much good.”