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NYS Comptroller



From the Office of the New York State Comptroller

Thomas P. DiNapoli

August 8, 2018, Contact: Press Office (518) 474-4015

DiNapoli Recommends Ways For LIRR To Get Back On Track

Audit Suggests Advance Planning for Disruptions, Alternative Transportation

The Long Island Rail Road's (LIRR) limited plans for handling unexpected incidents and poor communications to riders, exacerbated the impact of train delays and cancelations this past winter, according to an audit released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

"There is no question that LIRR has some tough challenges to overcome, and faced many unexpected incidents this past winter, but it can provide its riders with better service by improving preparations for major disruptions, alternative transportation and communication with passengers," DiNapoli said. "LIRR is an important part of the New York City metro-area economy and needs to run smoothly and efficiently."

DiNapoli engaged the audit to determine whether the LIRR has plans for handling unexpected delays and incidents and whether the plans were carried out and adequately met passengers' needs.

DiNapoli's audit examined LIRR's response to some of the 2,004 trains that were canceled or delayed by 15 minutes or more between December 1, 2017 and January 24, 2018. The audit sampled 11 of the train delays based on date, time of day (i.e. rush hour), branch and type of delay. Late or canceled trains during those 11 events directly impacted 745 trains and an estimated 331,720 passengers (using LIRR estimates of regular ridership). Among its findings:

  • LIRR did not have a plan for 5 of the 11 events examined, including two rail yard derailments and two incidents of people being struck by a train. The LIRR Guideline does not discuss these type of events, or how to provide service when they occur.
  • Of the remaining six events with plans, none of them followed all the required steps. Failure to follow all steps can increase delays and cause cancelations.
    • For example, the plan entitled ‘Grade Crossing Regulation’ includes nine required steps. Our review of an incident at the Little Neck Road Grade Crossing on the Port Washington Branch showed that five steps were not documented as implemented including notifying the Superintendent – Train Movement, Area Superintendent, General Superintendent – Transportation, and the Chief Transportation Officer. This event caused 13 late trains and one cancellation on the Port Washington Branch, and 3 delayed trains on the Port Jefferson Branch.
  • Communications to passengers in four incidents were not made or were late.
    • For example, for a broken rail on the Ronkonkoma Branch, the cancelation of a train was made late and there was no communication of when a second train would arrive.
    • With only one exception, when a person was fatally struck by a train on Feb. 6 on the Port Jefferson branch, auditors saw no LIRR messages to announce bus service availability to commuters.
  • LIRR could not document that buses ordered to expedite the movement of passengers during four events arrived and/or were effectively used to move passengers.
  • A "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.

The audit made the following recommendations:

  • Review recent incidents and ensure plans are developed to cover the major types of incidents that have had a significant impact on passengers.
  • Document which plan or protocol is implemented for each incident, and whether an Incident Commander was appointed.
  • Develop a process to manage bus service during an incident, including notifications to customers of the availability of bus service. Ensure that the use of bus service is documented (e.g. that 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.

The LIRR generally agreed with all of the audit's recommendations and said it has already implemented, or is in the process of implementing changes.


In 2017, 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).

To read the report, go to:

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