Metropolitan Transportation Authority - Long Island Rail Road


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Metropolitan Transportation Authority - Long Island Rail Road
Unexpected Delays and Events

Issued: February 27, 2019
Link to full audit report 2018-S-30

To determine if the Long Island Rail Road has plans to address unexpected delays or events, including addressing the needs of its passengers and reassessing and revising its plans after such events, and whether these plans were implemented as planned once the unexpected occurred. This audit covered events that occurred from January 1, 2015 to July 31, 2017.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is a State public authority created under Article 5, Title 11 of the Public Authorities Law. One of six MTA constituent agencies, the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) is both the largest commuter railroad and the oldest railroad in America operating under its original name. It extends from three major New York City terminals – Penn Station, Manhattan; Atlantic Terminal, Brooklyn; and Hunterspoint Avenue, Queens – through a major transfer hub at Jamaica to the easternmost tip of Long Island. The LIRR operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. On an average weekday, the LIRR carries 311,054 passengers on its ten branches and the City Terminal Zone.

According to its mission statement, the LIRR is committed to providing excellent rail transportation service that exceeds customer expectations and is worthy of the public’s trust and support. It pledges to operate a safe, accessible, clean, cost-effective, customer-focused transportation system that runs on time; is comfortable and user-friendly; and provides the region with a valued and indispensable service.

The LIRR’s Public Information Office is responsible for communicating with train crews, the media, and the public via phone, web, customer email, tweet, postings on station message boards and displays, MTA’s Train Time phone app, and other methods. The Transportation Services Department’s Movement Bureau oversees the movement of trains and train dispatchers in its Operations Center (Center) in Jamaica. It also communicates with train crews and signal towers across the railroad to prioritize train movements and handle incidents and unusual occurrences. The Center is considered the central command and control facility of the LIRR.

The tracks and tunnels used by the LIRR from Penn Station in Manhattan to Sunnyside in Queens are owned, managed, and maintained by Amtrak. Other than this area, the LIRR owns, manages, and maintains its track, stations, passenger cars, and locomotives. It is also host to New York and Atlantic Railway, which operates its freight services on LIRR track.

The Center has Operational Incident Guidelines (Guidelines) that describe its Incident Response Structure and various plans for addressing incidents. To address the needs of its passengers during an incident, the LIRR, as part of its incident response, may request that MTA Bus Company (MTA Bus) and New York City Transit cross-honor LIRR tickets or provide emergency bus service. It can also call upon the six bus companies under contract to perform bus services as required to transport passengers. Emergency bus service is defined by the LIRR’s Bus Call-Out Procedure as a request for buses in response to an acute disruption in scheduled train service where alternative bus service must be immediately provided.

Key Findings
We reviewed 49 events over a 2½-year period and found that, in some cases, the needs of passengers were not adequately addressed. All notifications or appropriate communications were not always made, alternative transportation arrangements were not documented, and procedures were not clear. Examples of the conditions identified:

  • In 8 of the 49 events in our sample, customers either were not informed about late trains or were told about late trains after the train was supposed to arrive.
  • For 26 events, the LIRR ordered buses; however, in two cases, buses were not available. While the LIRR noted that 204 buses were “delivered,” it could not document that the buses had actually arrived at the scene and were used to move passengers for any of these events because there were no LIRR On-Scene Representatives (who are at the station where bus service is supposed to be provided and who complete the Emergency Bus Call Log) on site.
  • The LIRR held 24 “Lessons Learned” meetings during the scope period and generated 217 recommendations from the participants, some of which addressed the customer experience. However, the LIRR did not compile and track the status of these recommendations.

Key Recommendations

  • Work with other constituent agencies (e.g., MTA Bus) to develop procedures for cross-honoring, including specific parameters that would require cross-honoring.
  • Compile a list of all Lessons Learned recommendations and the status of each. Document when and how each recommendation was implemented and by whom (e.g., department, unit, individual).

Other Related Audit/Report of Interest
Metropolitan Transportation Authority - Long Island Rail Road: Management of Unexpected Delays and Events During Winter 2017-18 (2017-S-37)

State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Carmen Maldonado
Phone: (212) 417-5200; Email:
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236