NEW YORK - The Long Island Rail Road tried to manage a reduction in ridership by cutting service, which didn't work out as planned. The service cuts resulted in packed trains and, in some cases, no room for social distancing this week.
Right now, ridership is down on the LIRR 76% so the MTA decided to reduce the already lightened-service by another 5% on Monday. Many LIRR riders boarded the most crowded trains they'd seen in a full year since the pandemic began.
"I'm an essential worker. I work for the Postal Service so I have no choice," one rider said. "I have to show up."
"When I take the train this morning, there was a guy on the train, he didn't have his mask on," another rider said. "He was coughing, coughing, coughing all the time. And I get off and let the train go and wait for the next one."
Then on Tuesday, the LIRR backtracked.
"We heard our customers' concerns about our new schedule loud and clear. As a result, we will restore our previous timetable on March 29," LIRR President Phil Eng said in a statement. "In the meantime, we will continue to strategically add additional trains and lengthen trains to meet evolving ridership levels. We continue to monitor seating availability with unprecedented clarity thanks to new technology."
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The new technology Eng referred to is the LIRR's Train Time app, which can show how crowded each car is in real-time. In fact, train managers use the app.
Thanks to the data, the LIRR realized it needed to increase service for Monday evening's commute in addition to Tuesday morning.
"As declining COVID-19 cases and increased deployment of the vaccine allow New York to fully reopen, customers should expect to see more riders returning to trains every day," Eng said, "and we look forward to it."