Op-ed | Cleaner-than-ever Long Island Rail Road wants you riding again

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


To those who have been riding with us throughout the pandemic, thank you for all you’ve done for our region — and to those who recently rejoined us, we welcome you back to our system with (socially distanced) open arms. 

For those yet to join us: let me fill you in on all we’ve been doing to make sure you feel comfortable and confident to ride the rails once again. 

The MTA is leading the way as we at the LIRR, alongside our sister railroad Metro-North, are the first two railroads in North America to test a new, innovative multi-stage air purification system for our train cars that’s certified by an EPA-approved facility and claims to effectively kill 99.998% of all airborne viruses, including COVID-19. We are optimistic that the pilot will be successful and can be installed on our entire fleet. 

In the meantime, have no fear: our current systems continuously filter and circulate air with fresh, outside air fully replacing air within the car every 5 minutes. Translation: You can ride safely. 

We’re encouraged by our steadily growing ridership: with weekdays at 28% of our pre-pandemic levels, exceeding projections of 22.5%. But the statistic that gives me even more optimism: up to 50% of weekend customers have returned. While many may be working from home as business models continue to evolve, a significant portion of our customers are using the railroad again for leisure travel, and I expect more to follow as businesses find safe ways to reopen and welcome visitors. 

To me, that’s a positive sign that people know the LIRR is safe and remains the most convenient way to travel. And when you ride LIRR, remember to use our recently revamped TrainTime App with real-time location, car-by-car crowding and historical ridership data allowing you decide best when to travel. 

No doubt, it’s been a tough year so far for all of us in New York. And it’s not over yet. But we’re sticking together at the Rail Road and across the MTA; not just to make it through, but to get to the other side stronger, better, and tougher than ever before. 

Because of our dedicated workforce, we’re keeping a clean, safe system day in and day out for our returning customers. We’re seeing respect amongst one another with mask compliance at 97%, according to our latest survey of more than 5,000 travelers. If you didn’t know, masks are mandatory on board and in stations. Need one? Just ask. To date, the MTA has made six million masks available to customers for free. 

So, New York, come on back. We’re here, and we’re ready for you. 

Phillip Eng is president of MTA Long Island Rail Road.