The MTA’s Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) service cuts couldn’t have happened at a worse time since Americans are still dealing with COVID-19 even though the economy is starting to slowly restart. Photos from rail riders posted on social media this past week depicting crammed train cars and platforms that left little to no social distancing amongst riders—with one photo showing a Penn Station train from Mineola— had elected officials and fellow Long Islanders outraged and concerned.
Due to the pandemic, the MTA needed to make cuts in order to stay afloat. All LIRR branches were changed to “enhanced” weekend schedules during the weekday commutes. However, MTA officials gave plenty of warning that drastic cuts such as this one were going to happen back in November 2020 saying they would make cuts to the state’s mass transit system if Congress didn’t provide more federal aid. Luckily for the MTA, the Senate signed off on another relief package earlier this month that gave the MTA $6.5 billion.
After hearing of the chaos that happened on the trains, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran wrote a letter to MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye urging him to reverse the service cuts immediately.
“As more and more residents are vaccinated and as our economy finally opens up, we need to encourage ridership back on the rails,” Curran said in her letter. “…Reducing service options at this critical juncture will have the negative consequence of discouraging rail communication and prolonging our economic recovery. Nassau County residents must be provided with frequent, safe travel options to and from New York City.”
After hearing the feedback, the MTA said that on Monday, March 29, it’ll restore its previous timetable vowing that in the meantime it will continue to strategically add and lengthen trains where possible to meet evolving ridership levels, using new technology to monitor capacity on each car.
“Reducing train service as our economy reopens makes no sense, as the LIRR must accommodate for social distancing as more residents get back to work,” Curran said in a statement once the MTA announced the reversal. “I’ll continue to push the MTA as necessary to ensure Nassau residents have safe, reliable commute they deserve.”
Congressman Andrew Garbarino (R, NY-2) said he applauds the reversal.
“It is in the best interest of employees, riders and our community to have the timetable restored, and I am glad that the MTA and LIRR listened to our calls to ensure the safety of our constituents on their commutes to work,” he said.
Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1) added, “The MTA’s decision to reverse course on recent service cuts, which led to infrequent and overcrowded LIRR trains, is great news for riders and workers alike. New York is entering a critical phase of reopening and revitalizing our local and regional economy, and the MTA plays a vital role in getting us back to our way of life. Ensuring that commuters can return to work safely and efficiently, will help us emerge from the outbreak of coronavirus stronger than ever.”