Today’s news:

LIRR gets commuters’ thumbs up

Riders have praised service on the Long Island Rail Road in a survey that included particularly high satisfaction ratings for employee courtesy and on−time performance.

On−board service categories got the highest approval ratings with courtesy of crews leading the way at 95 percent, followed by safety from accidents (94 percent) heating during cold weather (93 percent), overall comfort of trip (93 percent) and train interior maintenance (93 percent).

According to the LIRR, 90 percent of riders said they were satisfied with the railroad’s on−time performance, which reached a record 95.14 percent in 2008 at a time when the railroad had a record number of passengers.

In the survey, conducted in September and October 2008, more than 9,000 passengers traveling at peak and off−peak periods were asked their opinions. The LIRR said 89 percent of those queried reported satisfaction with the overall quality of service.

“Improving customer service is one of the MTA’s top strategic priorities and I am pleased that MTA Long Island Rail Road is receiving such high marks from its customers,” said Elliot Sander, Metropolitan Transportation Authority executive director.

“Along with record−breaking LIRR on−time performance, railroad and subway mechanical reliability that is 20 times better than it was two decades ago and significant ridership gains across all our agencies, these results show our region’s commitment to the MTA capital program is improving the quality of life for millions of customers every day,” Sander said.

LIRR President Helena Williams said, “I am delighted to see our train crews recognized for courteous service and that the hard work of our maintenance departments is clearly adding to the comfort and reliability of our trains.”

The LIRR said “restroom cleanliness” was listed in the category “needs improvement,” after riders gave it a 58 percent satisfaction rating.

The survey said many riders found fault with the cleanliness of the restrooms in Penn Station, with only 58 percent finding them acceptable.

Williams noted that a $5 million renovation of the restrooms now under way should help.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e−mail at news@timesledger.com or phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 136.

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