LIRR issues riders’ rights after Sept. service outage

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The Long Island Rail Road has issued a rider bills of rights after U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on the transit agency to establish procedures for updating passengers and providing for their safety during service disruptions and delays.

Schumer spoke out after a lightning strike hit the new switching system at Jamaica Station at 4:37 p.m. Oct. 29, which disrupted service between the Queens stop and Penn Station.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority Railroad Committee issued a 22-page report Monday that said “a programming error” had crippled the switching station four hours later as workers tried to fix the initial problems caused by the lightning bolt. The error shut down the entire system east of Jamaica station.

By 8:05 p.m.there were 27stranded trains and nine standing trains, the report said. The LIRR also canceled trains and suspended service at city terminals.

About 10,000 LIRR passengers were stranded, including some who were trapped in cars on idle tracks for hours. A few fed-up travelers jumped onto the tracks.

The LIRR further angered riders by imposing a $10 fee on any commuter who asked for a refund because of the loss in service. The fee was later rescinded.

“Our customers deserve to know their rights when they ride the LIRR, including what they expect from us during a delay,” LIRR President Helena Williams said as she announced the new guidelines for commuters.

She said the LIRR’s Pledge to Customers “outlines our core values and commitments, including providing accurate and timely information, a safe and reliable ride and outlining our procedures during an emergency.”

The eight-point pledge provides water for stranded passengers, allows them to leave disabled trains and assures riders the LIRR will help in finding them alternate transportation.

The pledge also promises courteous employees and a clean environment.

“We thank Sen. Schumer and the Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council for urging us to put this all down in writing and for their input as we were drafting it,” Williams said.

The LIRR said its Pledge to Customers would be made available to commuters in the coming weeks.

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

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