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LIRR Unveils Leading Global Technology on Real-Time Seating Availability and Accessible Trip Planning

Long Island Rail Road
Updated March 24, 2021 7:00 p.m.
the lirr announces updates to its train time app

LIRR Introduces New Timetables Complementing Information Enhancements to Maximize Social Distancing 


Changes to Digital Screens, Station Announcements and App All Detail Real-Time Seat Availability for Approaching Trains by User’s Location 


Train Time App Upgraded to Include Exact Count of Customers Currently In Each Car and Elevator/Escalator Locations 


View Video of News Conference Announcing the Improvements 


View Photos of News Conference


MTA Long Island Rail Road President Phil Eng today announced a slate of improvements to real-time seating availability information and trip accessibility information that are unmatched anywhere in the world. LIRR riders will now find an avalanche of new real-time information available via platform screens, platform announcements and major improvements to the Train Time app that had already been first in the public transit industry to provide real-time seating availability information. 

The enhancements in information availability come alongside enhancements to service. The railroad today announced it has posted new timetables that go into effect on Monday, March 29, restoring weekday levels of service that had been in place from Jan. 25 through March 5.  

Details on customer information enhancements are below. 

Platform Screens: Digital signs on platforms show a diagram of the arriving train, seating capacity in each car, and the observer’s relative position within the train. In a first for any public transportation system anywhere in the world, customers can use this information to walk to a different part of the platform to find a car with fewer people. At approximately 20 stations with color screens, that information is color coded in accordance with guidelines established by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). At approximately 90 stations with monochrome screens, that information is displayed graphically. 

Audio Announcements: Announcements featuring ordinary Long Islanders reinforce the information aurally, advising customers on where within the approaching train they are likely to find more seats. When a train is approaching, the automated arrival announcements include statements to the effect of: “The 7:15 train to Penn Station will arrive on Track 1. There are more seats towards the [rear/middle/front] of the train.” 

LIRR Train Time App Becomes More DetailedThe LIRR Train Time app – which already had provided information of this nature – has been made more detailed. The app now shows the number of passengers in each car of every train, refreshed every 15 seconds, along with the observer’s relative position within the train. (When it was first launched last year, the app provided a four-tiered color-coded system of green, yellow, orange, or red to show a general sense of seating availability. This color coding remains in place even with the increased detail now being provided.) 

Trip Accessibility InformationLIRR Train Time app users will now be able to locate elevators, escalators, and ramps on both origin and destination platforms, giving customers the ability to map out a trip in advance and position themselves in the ideal spot. LIRR staff traveled station-by-station to collect 900 data points to power this app feature. The app also features enhanced screen reader support for blind or low-vision users by reading out loud what is on the screen and adapt the speech output to the speed or volume they choose. 

“As our customers come back to the system, we are providing them as much information about their ride as possible, including more tools to find space on a train,” said President Eng. “Whether they are making use of signs, announcements or phones, customers now have access to a level of clarity that previous generations of riders could hardly have imagined.” 

“The Long Island Rail Road is really enhancing the way it approaches systemwide accessibility,” said MTA Chief Accessibility Officer Quemuel Arroyo. “These upgrades to the Train Time app are important tools to guide people to mobile access points and to help navigate our system. I will push to expand these features throughout the MTA so that all transit riders can benefit from the innovations we’ve seen here.” 

“By using technology, we are really transforming the way we think about customer service and the different needs of our riders,” said LIRR Chief Innovation Officer Will Fisher. “Passenger loading data is one of the most widely praised and heavily used features we have recently unveiled as customers continue to return to the railroad.” 

How It Works 

The features on screens, announcements and the app are all powered by the same sophisticated first-in-the-industry data system which uses sensors that can determine how many passengers are on board a train at any given moment. The LIRR securely transmits and processes this data, and seamlessly provides it back out to customers in a useful form in real time. 

All of the latest station and app features were built entirely in-house, led by the LIRR innovation team and implemented by LIRR Communications (BRS) and MTA I.T. staff (TCU) with an intimate understanding of the system. The team designed numerous solutions tailored specifically to LIRR and being shared across MTA.  

The approximately 70,000 customers who already have TrainTime installed will receive an automatic update so that they can use the new features. The revamped app remains available for free download through the App Store and Google Play Store for immediate download and use.  

Building on Previous Innovations 

Earlier this year, LIRR introduced a chat function that LIRR customers can use to chat in real-time directly with LIRR customer service staff. This, in addition to the latest capacity tracking upgrades, will prove especially helpful to customers navigating their return to LIRR in the wake of COVID-19. 

The LIRR Train Time App already includes a dazzling array of features to make traveling easier, many of which are new for this update: 

  • (New!) Find a train by searching for a car number on that train 
  • (New!) See the location of all incoming trains on one map for a given station  
  • Real-time train location updated every three seconds 
  • Push notifications for track assignments at Penn Station and Atlantic Terminal 
  • Ability to share trips with others to coordinate (i.e., picking up at stations)
  • Ability to bookmark favorite trips 
  • (New!) Enhanced iPad support 

March 29 Timetables 

Timetables that go into effect on Monday, March 29, restore weekday levels of service that had been in place from Jan. 25 through March 5.   

On the Port Washington Branch, where crews are replacing concrete ties between Mets-Willets Point and Bayside, mid-day trains will operate every hour instead of every 30 minutes. However, rush hour service will operate at a level similar to what was had been in place prior to March 8. This work also influences one evening rush hour train on the Hempstead Branch, which will originate at Atlantic Terminal instead of Penn Station. This track renewal project is expected to last through late May.  

The new timetables are available in PDF format online at the below link. 


The information is also available for trip pre-planning in the LIRR Train Time and MYmta apps.