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Schumer calls for LIRR rider bill of rights

TimesLedger Newspapers

A little over a week after a lighting strike at the Jamaica Long Island Rail Road station caused hours of delays, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on the railroad Monday to voluntarily implement a protocol in order to better inform passengers and protect their safety during service disruptions and delays.

In a letter sent to LIRR President Helena Williams, the senator said his office had received complaints after signal problems at the Jamaica station stranded at least seven trains full of passengers for up to three hours.

“In addition to the excessive amount of time that passengers were forced to remain on these trains, numerous complaints have come into my office about the lack of notification and information given to commuters as to the size and scope of these service disruptions, as well as alternative options for transit,” the letter read.

The senator urged the LIRR to establish a commuters’ bill of rights that would include a more robust notification system to alert passengers of service disruptions while on trains and on waiting platforms and alert them to alternative transit options.

He also suggested the protocol establish a clear time threshold for ensuring the safe disembarking of commuters from stranded trains and ensure that in situations where evacuation is dangerous or impossible, train operators provide provisions such as water for customers who are stuck for extended periods of time.

“Whether its maintenance, weather or human error that causes these disruptions, the victims are always the same: LIRR commuters, who pay a significant cost to ride the train,” he said at a press conference held at the Mineola station on the Port Jefferson line. “We need to ensure that no matter the cause, passengers have the right to be treated fairly and comfortable. It’s my hope that the LIRR will voluntarily put these protections in place and enforce them strenuously.”

The LIRR released a statement saying it shared Schumer’s concern and looked forward to working with him to make improvements.

“Our first priority in these situations must always be the safety of our customers, and we work closely with our public safety partners to keep customers on the train, where they’re safest. At the same time, we have an obligation to keep customers informed and comfortable, and we must do better,” the statement read.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee, a state-appointed watchdog group, said it agreed with the substance of the suggestion, but had questions as to how it would be implemented.

“We’ve got to discuss how it’s done,” said spokesman Bill Henderson. “There’s a need for more information.”

Henderson said the railroad certainly had room for improvement.

“There are proposals in the next MTA budget to expand the budget for information and information technology for the LIRR,” he said. “It’s a real problem for platform signs. Right now they can’t do real-time information or anything near it.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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