LIRR says marketing eased first weekend of service cuts

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The Long Island Rail Road is ready for its second and final round of drastic weekend service curtailments to install new switching systems in Jamaica with the first weekend of cuts having been carried out smoothly.

“People — by that I mean thousands of people — took our advice as to what to do and not do during this work,” said LIRR spokesman Sal Arena.

“We feel it went quite smoothly,” Arena said of the first weekend of service cuts.

The LIRR originally issued a statement calling on riders “traveling for recreational purposes” to use the Port Washington line, the route least affected by the massive shutdown. Many stations had neither train nor bus service, although the railroad provided buses in some areas.

Ridership from Long Island into Manhattan fell by 54 percent Oct. 24 compared with a normal Sunday, Arena said. Riders on the Port Washington branch were up by 43 percent.

“We feel that our marketing campaign helped,” Arena said in reference to a blitz of notices and advertising about the service suspensions on the LIRR website, in Penn Station, on Facebook, on Twitter, in train brochures, in letters to elected officials, on signs, on station posters, on electronic message boards, on public address systems, in newspaper and radio ads and in videos.

“In addition, the New York state Department of Transportation gave us some help by putting up signs about the service suspensions,” Arena said.

The LIRR originally told people to avoid the railroad altogether on the two weekends of service cuts unless rail travel was absolutely essential.

Arena said the LIRR was ready for the final weekend of work in Jamaica Nov. 6-7.

“The remainder of the work on the switching and signal will be completed over this second weekend and should return to normal,” Arena said.

The upheaval in LIRR service was made necessary in order to replace early 1912-era switching and signal equipment in Jamaica. Parts of the system caught fire last month, causing serious disruptions in LIRR service.

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

Updated 6:27 pm, October 10, 2011
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