'It's So Risky, Because A Lot Of The Population Still Hasn't Been Vaccinated,' Nurse Tells CBS2By Tony Aiello

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Commuters on the Long Island Rail Road say service reductions that took affect Monday are causing crowded trains and putting them at risk.

Now, elected officials are demanding the railroad reconsider, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported.

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A packed train 18 months ago was commonplace, but now it induces anxiety.

“It was as packed as pre-COVID times, and it’s absolutely ridiculous,” commuter Olivia Bologna said.

Service cuts impacted all branches of the Long Island Rail Road on Monday.

The LIRR further trimmed its schedule Monday, reducing the number of trains to 75% of the pre-pandemic total.

“This morning, people were 12 inches apart,” commuter Mindy Friedman said.

Commuters say it resulted in crowded cars on the morning ride in from Long Island, and again on the PM rush home from Penn Station.

The LIRR said the problems Monday morning were “spotty” and that 77% of trains ran at 50% capacity or less. But after a ride to the city on a crowded car, a worried Friedman caught an earlier train home to Long Beach.

“The fear is that the 5:45, which is really peak traveling, is going to be beyond,” Friedman said.

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Nateshia Tria, who is a nurse, told CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge she was worried about COVID-19 the entire ride.

“I actually almost had a panic attack because it was so crowded,” she said. “I figured they are cutting costs, but it’s so risky, because a lot of the population still hasn’t been vaccinated.”

The railroad is reassuring riders the cars are sanitized and the ventilation systems pump in fresh air, but as the pandemic recedes and ridership slowly inches up, people may have different expectations about what they consider safe.

“I honestly filed a complaint to the MTA. I wrote in this morning,” Bologna said.

Congressman Tom Suozzi also wrote the LIRR, saying billions of dollars in COVID relief money should allow the railroad to re-examine service cuts.

“We know that there are isolated trains that had areas where we are making adjustments for tomorrow morning’s rush hour,” LIRR President Phil Eng said.

Eng said the issue is being closely monitored and adjustments will be made.

“This is the management of the Long Island Rail Road. Always been like this. Been taking it since 1990,” one commuter said.

And if you think about it, people complaining about the commuter railroads is one sign things are getting back to normal.

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CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge contributed to this report

Tony Aiello