On June 5, LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) hosted a virtual meeting with Phillip Eng, president of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR). This was the first time LIMBA has hosted a meeting remotely.
As president of the LIRR, Mr. Eng said, his top priorities are service, reliability and safety, which are part of the LIRR’s Forward initiative. The East Side Access, Main Line Expansion, Double Track and ADA accessibility programs, are currently being performed on schedule. The agency is also continuing to work on the platforms on the west side of the Mineola station, repairing elevators at the Floral Park station and making upgrades along the Carle Place, Merillon Avenue, Garden City and New Hyde Park stations.
Mr. Eng said the employees took a proactive approach during the slowdown by working on safety improvements. They recently installed concrete ties to replace the older wooden ties. Because they are made of concrete, he said, they are sturdier, more reliable and provide a smoother ride. In addition, LIRR personnel inspected the rails for breakage; any rails that were broken or about to break were immediately replaced. The LIRR exceeds federal inspection guidelines, inspecting the rails two to four times a year; federal requirements call for inspections only once a year.
After reaching record ridership at the beginning of the year, Mr. Eng said, the number of riders dropped off significantly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Since March 27, the LIRR has run an “essential service plan” with only 3% of ridership taking the trains. He pointed out that those riders are “heroes” — healthcare workers, food delivery workers, utility workers and transit workers.
In an effort to protect workers and riders, Mr. Eng has encouraged them to practice social distancing and, if that is not possible, to wear protective face coverings when on the trains, waiting on the platforms or taking the stairs to and from the station. He has said that LIRR employees are working hard to keep riders safe by spraying down the cars with an EPA-approved disinfectant. In addition, all LIRR employees undergo a temperature scan to make sure they do not have the virus.
The good news is that, during the pandemic, on-time performance was at 98%, according to Mr. Eng. As of now, ridership has increased to 10%. Mr. Eng said that, once New York City starts to reopen under the state’s Phase 1 on Monday, there will be more riders taking the train.
Mr. Eng has been LIRR’s president since April 2018. He first joined the Metropolitan Transit Authority in 2017 as chief operating officer. In his role, he spearheaded initiatives focused on modernizing transportation systems through innovative technologies. These include the development of new fare payment applications and testing new signaling systems. Mr. Eng also served as the acting president for New York City Transit, leading the early efforts of the Subway Action Plan.