Op-ed | Ridership numbers hold climbing on Lengthy Island Rail Street

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The number just keeps increasing: 32%!

Last week we marked another milestone for the highest number of drivers in a day on the Long Island Rail Road since the pandemic began. We thank the heroic, essential workers who have ridden throughout the COVID-19 crisis. And for our recently returning drivers, it’s a great feeling to see you back on the rails.

We are seeing more and more people return to public transport because they know that it is the best way to get around our region – and it is safe.

Even better: we see the weekend and the number of drivers continue to increase outside of the high season. On Mother’s Day weekend, we recorded 55% of prepandemic drivers. What does that mean? My hope for you, the beginning of a return to a new normal. When there’s a place to be, drivers return for work or pleasure. And we will be there for you.

Customers are returning to MTA services across the board. NYC Transit Subways and Buses and Metro-North Railroad also recently posted pandemic highs in their respective passenger numbers. We still have a long way to go, but the upward trend looks promising – not just for the MTA, but also for the importance of progress for the entire region.

Throughout the pandemic, we have taken the safety of customers and employees very seriously. Never-before-seen disinfection protocols have been introduced that have made LIRR and MTA stations, trains, subways and buses cleaner than ever. We have distributed millions of free masks to customers to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. And we’ve launched aggressive mask and vaccine campaigns for both our customers and our employees.

Last week the MTA went a step further to make it easier than ever to keep you and your fellow travelers safe. We have launched a public pilot vaccination program in eight walk-in locations across the MTA system, including Penn Station and LIRR’s Hempstead Station. The program is proving successful. More than 2,200 people were vaccinated in the first two days alone. A really remarkable effort. But please remember that even if you are vaccinated, masks are still required for everyone on the local transport system, including on trains and at outdoor stations and platforms.

When the weather improves and sporting events and shows return to New York, we will be happy to see our driver numbers grow. With summer just around the corner, the busy Long Island tourist season will soon begin – with safety precautions, of course – at beaches, wineries, breweries, and other local destinations. Keep your eyes peeled for LIRR tours and beat summer island traffic like seasoned travelers know – and take the train.

Don’t forget to download our completely redesigned LIRR TrainTime app. It has everything you need to plan a safe journey, including tools that show real-time seat availability, accessibility information, historical and real-time passenger loading data, and much more. We provide as much information as possible to drivers so they can feel empowered, informed and most importantly, safe.

Catch yourself on the rails and share your thoughts with me when you see me!

Phillip Eng is President of the MTA Long Island Rail Road.

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The views and opinions expressed in this comment are solely those of the author and are not necessarily those of amNewYork Metro or its employees.

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