Today’s news:

Riders give LIRR high marks in MTA satisfaction survey

Nearly 90 percent of Long Island Rail Road riders have given a “satisfied” or “very satisfied” rating to service on the nation’s second-largest commuter line.

Passengers told the parent Metropolitan Transportation Authority that much of their high marks were the result of train conductors, ticket agents and other employees, who got approval ratings from 90 percent to 93 percent. The railroad’s overall report card was 89 percent positive.

The MTA said the cleanliness of toilets on the LIRR is still a challenge with a 64 percent satisfaction rating — better than in recent years, but below what the railroad said it is aiming for.

“We try to keep the customer at the center of everything we do,” LIRR President Helena Williams said. “I am especially pleased that customers gave high marks to their interactions with our frontline employees. The LIRR workforce is a dedicated group that responds in all kinds of weather, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. They deserve a lot of credit and I know they want to do even better than 89 percent in the coming year.”

Of the LIRR’s 11 branches, the Hempstead Branch got the highest rating for overall customer satisfaction (92 percent) followed by the Far Rockaway and Montauk branches (both 90 percent). The two lowest-scoring branches were Oyster Bay (82 percent) and Port Jefferson (85 percent). The Port Washington, West Hempstead and Long Beach branches came in at 89 percent, followed by Huntington (88 percent), Babylon (87 percent) and Ronkonkoma (86 percent).

Riders’ satisfaction is highly dependent on whether trains run on time, and the LIRR said that its trains were on time 92.6 percent so far in 2010, compared with 95.5 percent in the same period of 2009.

Williams pointed out that the LIRR had to contend with a tornado, a fire that devastated a switching facility in Jamaica and other detriments to punctuality this past summer.

The survey indicated that LIRR riders’ biggest complaints were dirty toilets, which got a 64 percent approval rating, and parking, which got a 62 percent approval grade.

Riders gave a 73 percent approval rating to the way the LIRR provided on-board announcements when service was disrupted.

The survey also provided, for the first time, a glimpse of how the LIRR compares with the MTA’s other commuter railroad: Metro-North. Metro-North’s approval rating was 93 percent, although Metro-North riders were even less satisfied with toilets than those of the LIRR, giving bathrooms a 57 percent approval.

Metro-North overtook the LIRR as the nation’s largest commuter line this year.

The LIRR said that in responses to the survey, the railroad plans to increase parking space at the Kew Gardens, Hicksville, Locust Valley and Stony Brook stations, along with other improvements.

The survey was conducted this past June with more than 7,500 LIRR commuters taking part.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-260-4536.

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