Metropolitan Transportation Authority - Long Island Rail Road


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Metropolitan Transportation Authority - Long Island Rail Road
Management of Unexpected Delays and Events During Winter 2017-18

Issued: August 7, 2018
Link to full audit report 2017-S-37
Link to 90-day response

To determine if the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) has plans to address unexpected delays or events and whether those plans were followed, and to assess whether the plans adequately addressed the needs of its passengers. This audit covered events that occurred between December 1, 2017 and January 24, 2018 and on February 6, 2018.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is a State public authority created under Article 5, Title 11 of the Public Authorities Law. One of six MTA constituent agencies, the LIRR is the largest commuter railroad in the country and the oldest operating under its original name. It extends from three major New York City terminals – Penn Station, Manhattan; Atlantic Terminal, Brooklyn; and Hunterspoint Avenue, Queens. The LIRR operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. On an average weekday, the LIRR carries 311,054 passengers on its ten branches and the City Terminal Zone.

The LIRR’s Mission Statement states, in part, “We, the employees are committed to providing excellent rail transportation service which exceeds Customer expectations and is worthy of the Public’s trust and support. …Together, we pledge to operate a safe, accessible, clean, cost effective, Customer focused transportation system that runs on time, is comfortable, user-friendly, and provides the region with a valued and indispensable service.”

The OSC Office of the State Deputy Comptroller for the City of New York issued a report in March 2018 stating that, in 2017, the LIRR had its worst on-time performance since 1999. An estimated 9.2 million riders were inconvenienced by trains that were late, canceled at the terminal before departing, or terminated en route before reaching their destinations. Service significantly deteriorated in December 2017 and January 2018. For example, in January 2018, on-time performance was 83.9 percent, 8.5 points below the 92.4 percent achieved in January 2017. In January 2018 alone, 3,333 trains were canceled, partially canceled, or were late (arriving at the destination six minutes or more after the scheduled time).

Key Findings

  • Despite the pledge to provide a customer-focused transportation system that runs on time, the LIRR was unable to live up to that promise this winter. We found that the LIRR did not have plans covering unexpected events such as derailments in the yard or collisions between a person and a train, which kept it from providing scheduled train service. The LIRR did not have a plan for 5 of the 11 events sampled. Of the remaining six events with plans, none of them followed all the required steps. Communications to passengers in four incidents were not made or were made late. The LIRR also could not document that buses ordered to expedite the movement of passengers during four events arrived and/or were effectively used to move passengers. Late or canceled trains during the 11 events reviewed directly impacted 745 trains and an estimated 331,720 passengers (using LIRR estimates of regular ridership).
  • Only one “Lessons Learned” meeting was held for the sampled events, in response to the two-day snow event on January 4-5, 2018; that meeting gave rise to 12 recommendations for improvement. LIRR officials also provided internal reviews covering four other sampled events; however, none identified any improvement opportunities.

Key Recommendations

  • Ensure individuals who are designated to fulfill roles of the Incident Response Structure for the Operations Center are documented in the event logs.
  • Review the nature of incidents that have occurred in at least the past year, and ensure that plans are developed to cover the major types of incidents that have had a significant impact on passengers. Develop a structured incident management flowchart to cover incident management protocols.
  • Develop a process to manage bus service during an incident, including notifications to customers of the availability of bus service. Ensure the use of bus service is documented (e.g., whether they arrived and when they are assigned to particular location or service).
  • Develop standard alternative service plans for each main line and branch, to be implemented should service be suspended (including alternative train or bus support). Provide information regarding where passengers can reasonably go in the event service is interrupted.
  • Ensure customers are notified in a timely and continuous manner throughout an incident.

Other Related Audit/Report of Interest

State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Carmen Maldonado
Phone: (212) 417-5200; Email:
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236