The Long Island Rail Rail Road ran on time more often in April than in any month in nearly seven years, according to newly released LIRR figures.
The railroad's on-time performance last month of 95.3 percent was the best since October of 2012, when it reported an identical figure.
The April numbers were just 1.5 percentage points below the LIRR’s modern record, set in January of 2010, the railroad said.
The LIRR fared even better during the evening rush — typically it's most challenging period of the day — with an on-time rate of 96.5 percent. During the morning peak period, 94.6 percent of trains operated on time.
Through the first four months of 2019, the LIRR has operated 93.7 percent of its trains on-time — an improvement of four percentage points over the same period last year. In total, 1,645 more trains have been punctual so far this year than last.
The LIRR has now improved it's on-time performance in four of the past five months — only dipping in February when the fatal accident of two trains hitting a vehicle on the tracks in Westbury caused several cancellations and delays over three days.
The improved numbers come after the LIRR in 2017 and 2018 recorded its worst on-time performance since 1999.
The LIRR considers a train late if it arrives at its final destination more than five minutes and 59 seconds after its scheduled time. The State Legislature recently passed a measure requiring the LIRR to reduce its on-time standard to just two minutes, but the railroad has yet to act on it.
LIRR president Phillip Eng, who joined the railroad in April of last year, has attributed the strengthened performance to his "LIRR Forward" initiative, which aims to address the root causes of some of the railroad's most persistent problems, including accidents on the tracks, severe weather, and faulty track switches.
“When I arrived at the railroad last year, I promised to lead the LIRR team and tackle the most pressing issues that were affecting service and delaying our customers," Eng said in a statement. "I'm proud to say we're making great strides toward keeping that promise."
Those strides have included the replacement of 14 switches that accounted for nearly half of all switch failures in 2017, the clearing of 225 miles of overgrown vegetation, which has prevented trees from falling on tracks, and inspections and upgrades on 164 track circuits to reduce failures.
Despite a strained relationship between LIRR management and its unions — worsened by recent allegations and investigations into potential overtime fraud — Eng said the improvements "couldn't have been done without the women and men at the LIRR who stepped up and completed this important infrastructure work."
While the LIRR's punctuality has improved in recent months, Syosset customer Michael Marolda said several other problems continue to plague the commuting experience, including "the filth" on trains, insufficient parking at stations, and "overcrowded trains that you can't get a seat on."
“To me, that's more important than a train being four or five minutes late," Marolda said. "I'm more understanding of that than of the overall handling of the whole situation."
The LIRR said, in addition to its on-time performance, it has improved conditions for customers in recent months by having more trains available. The number of trains that operated with fewer cars than usual in April was 126, compared with 228 during the same month last year.