MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — There was a victory Tuesday for Long Island Rail Road commuters who were concerned about their safety with this week’s new service cuts.
The railroad’s president said he’s taking dramatic action and as of March 29, the trains will be back on the previous schedule, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.
Pulling into Penn Station on a rush hour train from Babylon, there wasn’t a chance of social distancing. Commuters hoping for a safer ride Tuesday snapped pictures of packed cars. One tweeted, “This is literally and figuratively sick!” after a second day of service cuts.
“You couldn’t move. It was unacceptable for the times,” Mineola resident Steve Griffin told CBS2’s John Dias. “You look right, you look left, and you’re trapped. A lot of miserable, unhappy customers.”
“To change the trains like that when we are not anywhere near to being out of this is just ridiculous,” Garden City resident Liz Nienstedt said, adding she’s even considering getting a COVID test because of it. “Someone sat down right next to me… I haven’t sat next to anyone in months and months.”
Service cuts due to reduced pandemic ridership were put in place to save $15 million, but with billions of dollars in COVID-19 stimulus funds coming in and after another day of complaints, there was a chorus of calls for the MTA to undo the service cuts.
“A few fixes were made, but not nearly enough,” said state Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat who represents Rockville Centre. “When you have weekend schedules colliding with weekday life, you get disastrous results.”
But after adding nine trains Tuesday and still fielding complains, LIRR President Phil Eng said afternoon he heard customers’ concerns loud clear and will restore the previous time table.
Not long after, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran released a statement, which said, in part, “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. I will continue to push the MTA as necessary to ensure Nassau residents have the safe, reliable commute they deserve.”
The group Passengers United had been calling for a fare strike.
“There were passengers standing in the rest room. To me, that is a health hazard,” Passengers United president Charlton D’Sousa said.
Eng is reminding riders that trains cars are sanitized and the HVAC system recycles the air 12 times every hour, adding you can ride the trains safely.
He also said the railroad will continue to strategically add additional trains — and lengthen trains — to meet the evolving levels of ridership.
CBS2’s John Dias contributed to this report