Long Island Rail Road President Phil Eng appeared live this morning on LI News Radio 103.9 FM with Jay Oliver to discuss additional service and how customers can find train cars with the most available seats using the LIRR’s TrainTime app.
A transcript of the interview following President Eng’s introduction appears below.
Jay Oliver: Was it a mathematical error, Phillip, as far as consolidation was concerned within the LIRR? If you are telling us 75% less ridership, less cars then, less individuals to man those cars, and why not, we get it. Was it a miscalculation as far as who would occupy the lessened trains? Because there were an awful lot of complaints coming on, what was the mindset, sir?
Phil Eng: Well, Jay, so last week when we spoke, I noted that we knew with any service change, we would have to monitor how ridership adjusts, and that we were going to make adjustments based on that. Yesterday, while we observed there were some isolated trains where we saw the ridership move to. And this morning, we've made adjustments to the service plan. We've added nine trains overall, and we're going to continue monitoring and adjusting to further supplement the plan. But the way we saw yesterday, we knew those trains needed some work and we've addressed that. It was really something that we were monitoring in real time, and we want our riders to know that we're going to continue to do that throughout the rest of this service plan, and we're still doing this for today, as we monitor today's commute.
Oliver: You had a lot of complaints, websites, you know, people calling their elected officials, even Tom Suozzi I saw chimed in, you know, Congressman Suozzi, Todd Kaminsky state senator, I mean there were a lot of people who were crying foul here as far as you know what, let's do the right thing, let's get those trains back in the mix. How much did that play as far as the mindset was concerned to make changes here on a Tuesday?
Eng: Jay, all the feedback we get is invaluable to us. And I really do appreciate the support from all of our local elected leaders, Senate Majority [Leader] Schumer and down because they've all been very strong, staunch supporters of MTA and mass transportation, and we are doing, we're doing what we need to do. We're going to continue to rightsize the service. If it means adding more trains back to the schedule we will do that. And as I mentioned, we added nine this morning--nine overall for the day service, and we're going to keep looking at where else we need to make adjustments. The service changes that we did were primarily on Ronkonkoma, Hicksville, Babylon, locations where some of the heavier construction trades ride. But we're also going to look at some of the other branches as well, because we've, we've gotten feedback and again, as we're monitoring in real time riding, we're going to we're going to look to see how we can adjust and address some of the others that people are raising. But the important thing is that people should know is that we do appreciate the feedback, and we will keep making adjustments as necessary.
Oliver: What about the COVID? I mean, and I'm sure it played a role as well, you had a whole bunch-up as far as commuters were concerned. I think that also played a lot into a, you know, a lot of folks, we've all ridden those trains where you're right on top of one another, and that has to play a central role as far as the thinking is concerned as far as guidelines, no?
Eng: I know the pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty for folks. And that's why one of the things I think is important for our riders to know is that we continue to sanitize our trains every day. The HVAC system is very robust and it actually does recycle fresh air continuously 12 times an hour, it's fully recycled and that doesn't even include when we open and close doors. But also the app which I’ve talked about where riders can see in advance just how much, how many people are riding in each individual car as its approaching to allow them to make decisions and move along the platform or when they're within a train to be a little more comfortable. And then of course, obviously, we do encourage them, we're very pleased that we see strong compliance with regarding wearing face coverings. Over 97% of our riders are and we continue to reinforce and support that and obviously all the other health advice with regards to washing your hands properly and not touching your face. All of these things play into it. And, you know, as I said, you can ride the train safely and we're going to continue to look at where we need to adjust service to kind of address those issues because we know people that have been riding are a little more comfortable, but the ones that are returning need to kind of get into that flow where they feel more comfortable and that’s my responsibility to make sure to address those service needs.
Oliver: Last one Phil, Chairman Foye said there would be no more cuts. Now that we've added cars and everything else, obviously more personnel here, is that still going to be the case? Now listen, you got a stimulus that's going to add some money to the MTA, we know it's well needed, $6.5 billion, whatever it is. Are you good with the fact that there will be no further cuts based on everything here?
Eng: Jay, I think based on everything we're seeing, and even right now, as I mentioned, what we're looking to do is continue to build up this service plan that we have to make sure that we address some of the areas where people may still be, you know, making changes to their ride. Like today's only day two, so we need to watch how today goes and we will continue to add some trains at certain locations. And I'm good with the ridership as it is now. It’s growing, it’s what we're looking for and we will raise service to meet those levels. So, yes, absolutely good with what chairman has said.
Oliver: Stay well, we will check in with you. Anything you need. I always say, no pun intended, you have a platform here, sir.
Eng: Jay, I appreciate it. And rest assured we are going to continue to monitor and we are going to continue to adjust service to make sure we take care of those needs.
Oliver: There you go. Phillip Eng, president of the LIRR. You stay well, thanks, Phil. Appreciate it. Yep, important information there.