Op-ed | LIRR, back on track and vaccinating employees

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

COVID-19 has affected us all in so many ways and battling it for the past year has pushed us all to our limits.  Personally, professionally and socially, we’ve all made sacrifices and been touched at all corners of our lives. We’ve lost loved ones and have had to adjust our routines and way of life to fight the virus.

But all of this will make us stronger, and for a moment I want to focus on what’s ahead of us. With vaccination programs across New York State getting shots into the arms of millions of New Yorkers, I say we’re well on our way to getting back to the way things used to be. Or at least a version of it. 

At the LIRR specifically, we’ve been steadily vaccinating our own employees. At last count, 2,300 employees (almost 33% of our total workforce) have gotten at least one shot. I’m proud of this effort and continue to encourage all employees to get vaccinated as we continue to work to keep our workforce and our customers safe. 

Restaurants in New York City are now allowed indoor dining capacity at 50%, with 75% capacity permitted on Long Island. Just last week, Governor Cuomo announced that the Mets and Yankees will start allowing fans to return to the stands, with limited capacity on April 1, alongside large outdoor venues for live concerts and shows. These reopening announcements are the good news we’ve all been waiting for. But it’s also a stark reminder that what we’ve been doing to keep COVID-19 transmission rates low has been working. So please, keep wearing your mask, keep washing your hands, and get a vaccine when it’s your turn. 

We have been adjusting service throughout the pandemic to meet the needs of LIRR customers, and on March 29, we’ll be adding additional service back to our schedules. As more and more people rejoin the system, we’ll be keeping track of ridership figures and will add service as necessary to keep New York moving. We’ll continue working with our local elected officials as well as engaging with our ridership about service as we work to serve the diverse ridership needs across Long Island. 

Haven’t ridden public transportation in a while? Don’t worry, we have your back. Plan your trip ahead of time using the new features in our TrainTime app that show you how crowded a particular train was over the last several days, along with real-time loading data that can help you find the least crowded car on a currently running train. Our aim is to arm you with all the information you need to have a safe, comfortable ride. 

As we well know, the weather only gets better from here. Let’s all help New York’s economy by getting back on the LIRR, Metro-North, the subways and the buses. Let’s take advantage of everything our diverse and wonderful state has to offer. Your hometown train is ready for the ‘great New York comeback.’ Join us. We can’t wait to see you.