Op-ed | Things looking positive for the Long Island Rail Road

Long Island Rail Road President Phillip Eng.
Photo courtesy of the MTA


As difficult as this year has been, there’s another side to this story that we can’t lose sight of: the progress and success we’ve made at the Long Island Rail Road, delivering critical infrastructure work resulting in improved service delivery for our customers.

Several of the innovations our teams here at LIRR have conceptualized, tested, and executed with success have led the way in the global railroading industry. We know we have to continue to think outside the box and adapt to problems and issues that arise so we can continue to deliver the service our customers deserve, no matter what Mother Nature or a global pandemic throws at us.

The finish line is in sight for Positive Train Control that already covers 98% of LIRR’s 305 route miles. Remaining implementation is in the area between Jamaica and Penn Station which is expected to be finished ahead of schedule before the end of the year. Positive Train Control enhances train safety behind the scenes by reducing the potential for human error to contribute to train-to-train collisions, trains traveling into zones where railroad employees are working on tracks, and other types of accidental mishaps.

Last year we piloted a first-in the-world laser train to combat leaf fall season, which has historically been a major source of delays during autumn. This year we added a second laser train and increased the speeds. In conjunction with our improved pressure washers, we’ve hit record on-time performance figures this fall. So far this year, trains were on time 96% of the time, 3.6 percentage points higher compared to the same period last year. This shows what we’re doing is working.

And as part of LIRR Forward, we made several delay-causing issues a priority. Take a look at these figures relating to just one element: we had 86 track circuit failures that led to delays in 2018; decreased to 44 in 2019; and so far this year, 17, more than a 77% reduction from 2018. This means less delays and more on-time trains for our customers. A promise made and a promise delivered.

If you haven’t already, download our free newly revamped TrainTime app that includes features serving as critical tools as we ride the rails during this pandemic. These industry-pioneering features can help you plan your trip to take the least crowded trains, while providing real-time information about your travels to help you stay informed.

As our workforce has shown day-in and day-out this year, I know we have the talent among our ranks to get us through these dark times. But as we take some time this holiday season to remember what we do have and what we are thankful for, let’s remember how vital our public transportation network and our employees are to the fabric of society.

From all of us here at the railroad, we wish you and your families the best in health this holiday season. Know that we’re gearing up for another successful year in 2021 to serve all of you.

Phil Eng is president of the MTA Long Island Rail Road.