The Long Island Rail Road emerged Monday with a more comprehensive Performance Improvement Plan. But we wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t know about it.
The plan came as a news release to the media, and spreadsheets for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority committee with oversight of the LIRR. But, typical of an agency known for its failure to communicate, the plan’s unveiling didn’t come with any social media announcement, or website splash. There was no concrete effort to tell riders, well, anything. LIRR riders, who have endured a series of horrific commutes, including the worst on-time performance in 22 years in January, deserve to know what the railroad is going to do to alleviate their misery.
The plan has important elements, from replacing key switches and older electric poles, to adding snow plows and third-rail heaters. It includes improving customer communication, too, starting with gatherings where managers will listen to rider concerns.
LIRR executives said the railroad has a sense of urgency in pushing this plan. If that’s true, the railroad should be more aggressive in its timetable, and more immediately customer-focused in its rollout.
Perhaps the LIRR can learn from New York City Transit, which Monday unveiled an online “bus dashboard” with clear graphs showing bus speeds and on-time performance. If the MTA can do that for city riders, why can’t it do the same for its suburban customers?
In a survey taken in the fall, the LIRR’s customer satisfaction stood at a mediocre 77 percent. That was before this winter’s troubles. Now, it’s up to the railroad’s leadership to turn its performance around, as quickly as possible. And the LIRR has to remember: its most important client isn’t the press, or the MTA board. It’s the riders.