Wednesday, March 21, 2018

LIRR lays out improvement plan

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LIRR lays out improvement plan Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin

The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) detailed a slate of nearly 60 actions it will take to improve the railroad's performance through a new initiative called the LIRR Performance Improvement Plan (PIP).

Officials said the PIP involves virtually every department of the railroad and concentrates on improving three aspects of operations: service reliability, seasonal preparedness and customer communications.

"This plan lays out the steps toward doing everything we can to prevent incidents that can impact service and when incidents do occur, to recover service faster by improving our response times to the issues impacting us and our customers," said LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski. "Just as important, whether we have a disruption or are providing normal service, we know that improved communication with customers is vital. That extends to this plan itself. We are developing a host of methods to gauge customer feedback on our performance, from upcoming public engagement sessions and focus groups, to working with the LIRR Commuter Council and soliciting customer comments."

Regarding service reliability, the PIP includes efforts to improve fleet reliability, maintain and upgrade critical infrastructure, as well as approaches to better respond to fleet and infrastructure issues that do occur, with the overall goal of targeting investments that deliver the most improvements for the most customers.

LIRR provided several examples of actions it will take to support service reliability including hardening or upgrading assets such as PSEG poles alongside the tracks systemwide, the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel in Brooklyn and crossties at Queens high-speed crossovers; accelerating M7 heated threshold replacements and installing flexible delineators at high priority railroad crossings to deter vehicles from turning onto the tracks. LIRR also plans to increase the frequency of rail-flaw detections; implement special inspections at railroad crossings and improve the quality of track inspections by reducing the length of track inspected per tour. The railroad will also implement enhanced monitoring of railroad conditions by installing bridge strike monitoring systems at five priority locations, as well as a wheel impact load detection system to automatically detect flat spots and review the top 20 late trains system wide to identify opportunities for schedule adjustments.

LIRR also believes that improving its administration will help with service reliability and plans to realign track maintenance subdivisions to conform with signal subdivisions to better coordinate maintenance activities; add mobile response crews to address equipment issues and implement an engineering crew office with five new staff members to allow more effective planning and execution of proactive infrastructure maintenance and repair.

The railroad also plans to beef up its maintenance activities including an increase in rail joint welding and rail grinding, as well as an increased frequency of surfacing at switches.

To tackle seasonal challenges, LIRR plans to increase vegetation management practices in the spring and summer, acquire additional snow fighters and third rail heaters for winter, as well as add signal personnel, overnight track emergency crews, signal system grounding and new drainage systems to provide better preparedness year-round.

The third leg of LIRR's PIP will improve customer communications. LIRR says the railroad must improve in this area to make information more timely, more accurate and easier to access.

Actions include the creation of a chief customer advocate, who will report directly to Nowakowski, conduct market research and focus groups to better understand customer expectations and ramp up public engagement efforts among others.

LIRR will provide details every month to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board and the public on the nature of the activities and progress the railroad is making toward each using clearly defined metrics compared against pre-determined timelines.