Riders want LIRR to restore service sooner

Long Island commuter Veronica Zafonte told FOX 5 NY that crowded trains worry her because we are still in the middle of a pandemic. The frontline worker, who relies on the Long Island Rail Road to get to and from her job every day, fears service cuts resulting in crowded trains aren't safe.

"It's not an issue of having to stand on a train," she said. "People aren't wearing their masks properly, they're breathing on top of each other, there's four people to a row, aisles are full."

After backlash from riders and elected officials, the LIRR is reverting to its previous train schedule, saying customers spoke out and they listened.

"As a result, we will restore our previous timetable on March 29," LIRR president Phillip Eng said. "In the meantime, we will continue to strategically add additional trains and lengthen trains to meet evolving ridership levels."

"To wait another 19 days is ridiculous," Zafonte said. "COVID can spread in 15 minutes or less." 

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State Sen. Todd Kaminsky believes the switch should be made sooner.

"We want to be instilling confidence in our public transit system and want people to know that taking the train is safe," he said. "Having these packed trains and weekend schedule during weekdays is really undermining that confidence."

The LIRR announced its plan to reduce weekday service saying it would help accelerate infrastructure work on its tracks and save about $15 million. But it was quickly met with harsh criticism because the MTA is expected to receive more than $14 billion in federal coronavirus aid.

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Charlton D'Souza of the transit advocacy group Passengers United said he understands there needs to be a waiting period but hopes the LIRR will consider adding trains overnight to accommodate people getting vaccines.

"I wish service would come back by the end of the week," he said. "Train crews have to pick their schedules, equipment has to be put in place. It's not like turning on a light switch."