Commuters Give LIRR Earful Over Last Week’s Shutdown

Riders Not Buying 'Mother Nature' Excuse, Demand Full Accountability

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Sick of being stranded, Long Island Rail Road commuters are demanding a back-up plan and full accountability following the system-wide shut down caused by last week’s lightning strike.

Is the LIRR cursed? On Monday night its president blamed “weather woes” on the consistent crippling of the largest commuter railroad in the country. Passengers stranded by the latest shutdown last Thursday refused to accept that explanation.

“We had no communication with the outside world,” one commuter said.

“We want to ride a reliable train,” another added.

“It’s very disturbing. A lot of us rely on the train,” said another.

“I saw maybe a thousand people out there. It was crazy hysterical that day,” one said.

“How can you not have a back up system in place?” wonder another rider.

In response, CBS 2 received the railroad’s cryptic apology mostly blaming Mother Nature for “extraordinary weather events in the past year.” As many as 300,000 daily riders have suffered through 12 major delays or shutdowns in the past 12 months due to thunderstorms, lightning, wind, snow, ice and human error.

“We are asking for a detailed investigation as to what happened,” LIRR Commuter Council Chairman Mark Epstein said.

Epstein wonders why millions of dollars were recently paid to a manufacturer to upgrade the LIRR’s signal and switch system.

“It failed the other night. The primary and the backup failed,” Epstein said of the $45 million system.

McLogan tried asking the president and her staff what the railroad needs to work properly and efficiently, but her requests for on-camera interviews were rebuffed.

Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, D-Long Beach, a member of the State Transportation Committee, said commuters want the railroad held accountable.

“We are talking about modern times. We have the ability. We thought we addressed the problem, that it was not going to happen again, and two weeks later it happened again. Somebody didn’t do their homework,” Weisenberg said.

Commuters have been left asking can their railroad better plan for disasters, react more quickly, and communicate in a crisis.

The LIRR issued a statement saying consumer safety comes first. It pledged an internal investigation to determine what went wrong last week and has hired an outside consultant.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

More from Jennifer McLogan
  • R Troy

    Maybe no one noticed, but it appears that the backup system is in the exact same building as the primary – OOPS, that’s not the way to do things like that. Also, insufficient grounding, insufficient lightning and surge suppression, probably no viable lightning arrestors nearby. Then there is the clearly never tested software – the program that told LIRR that everything was hunky dory when nothing was working. Then no one on hand with training and enough spare parts to replace the fried boards. Hint LIRR – if the software fails, try the burnt board sniff test.

    Then of course, the idea that with the line closed approaching Jamaica, you keep dispatching trains from Penn. Another OOPS. No, you put people on the E train and buses. And when the system to the east fails, you spike and you run trains on each major line making all stops until things are clear.

    I remember hearing years ago from someone looking through disaster plans at the time for LIRR; the plans were full of specific names (not titles) of people who were supposed to take action under certain circumstances. Only problem; most of the names were of people long gone from LIRR. I’m guessing that LIRR planning hasn’t gotten any better since then.

  • S. Freedman

    In my humble opinion the LIRR seems to be getting WORSE & WORSE as time goes on. Last week’s lightning strike was a force of nature thing, but hey, how about just ONCE they offer their commuters some kind of a refund for all the troubles we go through??? Many times it ends up costing us extra money to get home during these disasters, but never once in any of their “apologies” is there any offer of a plan to compensate us where we’d feel it the most – in our pockets!!

    • Larry Schwarz

      That is why we need a passenger bill of rights,and they need to have backup plans in effect.I can understand if we have a Blizzard or Hurricane there will be service disruptions.But The Long Island Rail Road has service disruptions on a sunny day in May.This is not a once in a while occurence.They should be forced to issue credits which Commuters can use to buy their next commutation ticket.Maybe if they refuse we should dispute the charges on our Credit cards which will create a nightmare for their accounting dept.Imagine thousands doing this.Maybe the threat of that will be adequate to doi something.

  • Chris R

    There is no reason why, once they realized they were in total shutdown, they did not have a contingency plan to bus people to Jamaica then on towards their stations. I saw over the weekend, that a LIRR bus was waiting at a station where there was track work. WHY not have these buses readily available if a backup is needed? For the money we all pay to ride, both monthly and individually, there needs to be a backup plan. If Joey the ticket taker need not have his huge overtime salary paid, so the rest of us can get home in case of an emergency, than so be it.

    • Larry Schwarz

      Agreed,they could have used NYC Transit buses if necessary.There are car services at Jamaica Station and The LIRR could have hired these drivers,put 5 people in a taxi going in the same general direction.They should have also paid for it.We need laws governing this just like The passengers bill of rights in NY State for airline passengers.

  • Laura

    The LIRR runs a RAILROAD. We aren’t asking them to split the atom or discover cures for diseases. We ask them to RUN A RAILROAD. I’m sorry but “weather woes” just doesn’t cut it. We’ve all had “financial woes” from time to time and yet still have to pay full fare to ride the LIRR don’t we? And – seriously – “weather” has been around quite a long time, wouldn’t you figure that someone within the LIRR organization could figure out how to keep it running in the rain, snow, ice, etc? Weather is not a new concept.

    • Larry Schwarz

      They can not figure it out.I say bring in some students from MIT to teach them.Businesses can not shut down everytime a snowflake flies.NYC is The financial capital of the world.People have to be able to get to work.Suppose a doctor who was scheduled for surgey got delayed.Laura is right,learn how to deal with it,or as I said bring in some geniuses (MIT Students) to teach them how to deal with it.Another thing,The LIRR has been famous for bringing in trains at the last second resulting in what I see as dangerous crowding conditions on platforms at Penn Station.OSHA should look into this.

  • Larry Schwarz

    They need to have backup plans to move people when they are unable.Within The cIty Limits most can use subways,but what about others further out on Long Island?.If they are not able to come up with a back up plan then bring in a group of Harvard graduate business students to figure something out,they will.Gov.Cuomo should Fire some people because of this.

  • Joe

    The LIRR is one thing good for and always on top of things and never fails and make sure is RAISES THE FARES EVERY TIME WITH NO PROBLEM. That’s what there are good for. Who cares of the other things that happens on A daily bases. The LIRR should give everyone a free ride on the train for a week or longer for the aggravation that there give us.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jimmy

    The LIRR motto is “We Apologize”.

  • Jim from freeport

    What they should investigate is why we were trapped for over 3 hours with no information, with no power for an hour, and with no opportunity to leave. And the conductor blamed everyone but the LIRR for our plight. I thought that the LIRR President promised that strandings would no longer be tolerated. I was about 500 Feet from the Jamaica Station platform, with no way out. After 3 hours they finally pulled the train up to the train in front of ours, so that we could walk out. In each car and on the station platform, we were surrounded by police to prevent rioting. That is no way to run a Rail Road.

    • Larry Schwarz

      I agree.Someone should be forced to resign over this.Gov.Cuomo should decide who after a full investigation.Three hours with no food,water,or adequate toilet facilities.Maybe just like the Airlines passengers bill of rights should be applicable here.

  • Lynn D Sherman

    Even simple things do NOT work. I commute through Atlanti Terminal.The signage has been removed and NEVER replaced in the subway corrider so we can’t see what track the LIRR trains are on. There is NO cellphone connectivity in Atlanti Terminal. Why not? If we are stuk at Atlanti Terminal we can not communicate with the outside world. THese are simple things which could be fixed.

  • Larry Schwarz

    Ever since the 1960’s when then Gov.Rockefeller pledged that a Railroad plagued with problems would become the nations finest in 60 days,well that never happened.It is always something,has been for years.The last thing people want to see after a hard days work are throngs of people in Penn Station not knowing when the next train home is.Some will sit it out in a bar.But some have plans and it seems the railroad is not dependable for those who have plans.Some Incoming passengers might have had theatre tickets.A full investigation is warranted here.I use The LIRR to Jamaica often to catch The Air Train to JFK.Will I miss my flight one day.I think I rather use The Subway.It’s cheaper,and The LIRR is not much better

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