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State Comptroller DiNapoli Report Details LIRR Delays in 2017

2018 On-Time Performance Off to Mixed Start

In 2017, the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) had its worst on-time performance in 18 years, with an estimated 9.2 million riders inconvenienced by delays and cancellations, according to a report issued by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. These delays and cancellations had an estimated cost of nearly $75 million in lost productivity.

"As millions of commuters can attest, the performance of the Long Island Rail Road has become unacceptable," said DiNapoli. "On-time performance has fallen to the lowest level in nearly two decades, hurting riders. While Amtrak was a big factor behind the deterioration in service last year, the LIRR was responsible for more than twice as many delays. The MTA must ensure the LIRR has the resources it needs to provide reliable service and is managed effectively."

A commuter train is considered late by the LIRR only if it arrives at its final destination six minutes or more after its scheduled arrival time. DiNapoli’s report revealed on-time performance fell to 91.4 percent in 2017, the lowest level since 1999 and below the target rate set by the LIRR (94 percent). On-time performance has fallen in four of the past five years, according to data reported by the LIRR.

Almost 21,400 trains were late, canceled or terminated in 2017, nearly one-fifth more than in 2016, according to the report. The report noted that performance was affected by an increase in Amtrak-related incidents (Amtrak owns and operates Pennsylvania Station and the tunnels under the East River used by the LIRR) as well as an increase in incidents attributed to the LIRR.

Amtrak was responsible for more than 3,000 late, canceled and terminated trains, an increase of 150 percent since 2016. The LIRR was responsible for over 6,500 late, canceled and terminated trains, more than twice as many as Amtrak and 20 percent more than in 2016. More than two-thirds of these delays were caused by equipment problems.

The LIRR attributes one-quarter of all late, canceled and terminated trains to its customers. Most of these delays (82 percent) occurred when demand exceeded the level of service provided by the LIRR (e.g., special events, such as concerts). Other factors include short platforms, which require passengers to walk through the train to board or exit. The report said the LIRR, not the customer, bears responsibility for these conditions.

Most LIRR commuters (87 percent) travel to or from Penn Station in Manhattan’s central business district. Peak trains using Penn Station were 71 percent more likely to be late, canceled or terminated than trains using Atlantic Avenue, the second-busiest western terminal in New York City.

The on-time performance of trains using Penn Station during peak periods improved to 90.2 percent during the last four months of 2017 after the completion of emergency repairs by Amtrak during the summer months. However, this performance was virtually the same as one year earlier during the same period, and much lower than the LIRR’s system-wide target (94 percent).

Beyond the report, according to the LIRR, on-time performance fell to 83.9 percent in January 2018, the lowest level in 22 years. While bad weather was a contributing factor, performance was poor even after taking the blizzard into account. Performance improved to 93.2 percent in February, but it was still below the LIRR’s goal (94 percent). More than 4,600 trains have been late, cancelled or terminated during the first two months of 2018, 27 percent more than in the same period in 2017.

The report also revealed:

  • More than 19,200 trains were late in 2017, which was 19 percent more than in 2016. Of these, more than 7,000 were over 10 minutes late and nearly 3,500 were more than 15 minutes late.
  • Nearly 1,400 trains were canceled at the terminal before departure, 9 percent more than in 2016.
  • Another 767 trains were terminated en route before reaching their final destination, 35 percent more than in 2016.
  • A total of 195 trains were late by more than one hour, including 14 trains that were late by more than two hours.
  • Trains arriving at Penn Station between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. during the morning peak (when 29 percent of commuters arrive in the morning) were late, canceled or terminated 17 percent of the time (up from less than 13 percent in 2016).
  • Trains departing Penn Station between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. during the evening peak (when 37 percent of commuters depart in the evening) were late, canceled or terminated 21 percent of the time (up from 15 percent in 2016).

LIRR officials have said that operations are constrained by the limited platform space at Penn Station and by the East River tunnels that connect Manhattan to Long Island, which were damaged by Superstorm Sandy. DiNapoli said the federal government must provide Amtrak with the resources it needs to properly maintain Penn Station and the East River Tunnels, and keep its commitment to help finance a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River and expand Penn Station.

For a copy of the report, Long Island Rail Road: On-Time Performance by the Numbers, visit: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/osdc/rpt12-2018-lirr-performance.pdf