TSTC Releases Second Annual LIRR “Laggy” Analysis

Overcrowding MTA Flickr

Fast-tracking projects such as the Double Track and and re-booting the Third Track project will reduce congestion, delays and overcrowding, and boost the region’s economy. Photo: MTA Flickr

Tri-State Transportation Campaign released its second annual Laggy Analysis, which ranks the 11 branches of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) according to the greatest lost economic productivity, delay per rider and total lost time.

Tri-State’s analysis found that late, cancelled and terminated LIRR trains led to $68,545,440 in lost economic productivity from July 2013 through June 2014 . For the second consecutive year, the Babylon branch contributed the most to lost productivity and lost time due to delays. The Port Jefferson branch had the greatest levels of delay per rider at 22.3 lost hours annually.

The LIRR is an economic lifeline for Nassau and Suffolk County’s economies. Nearly 300,000 riders rely on the LIRR to travel between Long island and New York City for work, and the system contributes up to $50 million daily into the region’s economy. Delays on key LIRR branches held the railroad back from contributing even more to the region, with overall increases in lost economic cost, hours lost and delay per rider compared to last year’s analysis.

“While $68.5 million is a significant sum to lose in annual economic productivity, it pales in comparison to the nearly $11 billion in lost economic productivity due to roadway congestion in the region. Taking the LIRR is a much better value for the economy and for commuters, but more investment is needed to reduce delays and bring down this figure,” said Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool.

The analysis coincides with the recent release of the MTA’s draft 2015-2019 Capital Program, which faces a $15.2 billion funding shortfall. The shortfall is a serious threat to capital projects that would reduce delays and increase the resiliency and redundancy of the LIRR system.

The Babylon, Ronkonkoma and Huntington branches contributed the most to lost productivity, respectively winning the gold, silver and bronze Lost Productivity Laggies.

Laggy Award Branch Total Economic Cost ($) Percent Change from Previous Year 
  1. Gold
Babylon  17,312,961 +17%
  1. Silver
Ronkonkoma  12,329,805 +0.4%
  1. Bronze
Huntington  9,805,101 +20%

Tri-State also ranked branches based on total hours of delay and average delay per rider; a factsheet with all Laggy recipients in the three categories is available here.

“This year’s analysis shows that despite Long Island’s strong reliance on the system, the delays on high-ridership routes have added to overall increases in lost economic productivity and commuter time”, said Yichun Tu, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign research fellow who conducted the analysis.

The Laggy methodology was developed using MTA-provided ridership, on-time performance and other lateness, termination and cancellation data, along with Census-derived income assumptions regarding the value of lost time. Proper adjustments were made on days with unusually bad weather to avoid overestimating loss due to events beyond LIRR’s control. The analysis also determined that overall performance decline is the major cause of the increased economic loss, despite slight increases in ridership and income since the previous year.

Tri-State’s analysis calls on Governor Cuomo and Long Island’s elected officials to identify the necessary funding to make the 2015-2019 MTA Capital Program whole, directing funding to:

  • completing the Second Track Project
  • building the Babylon Interlocking
  • rebooting the Third Track Project
  • increasing funding for signal improvements
  • introducing Wi-Fi capabilities on LIRR trains and at stations

In addition, the LIRR can:

  • better communicate with customers when facing delays and cancellations
  • improve the specificity in reporting late, cancelled, terminated trains instead of assigning vague “Categories of Delay”
  • work with Amtrak to resolve related operating and maintenance issues
  • support a Transit-Oriented Development Infrastructure program

These capital improvements will also improve the system’s resiliency in the face of changing climate. While the LIRR weathered storms like Sandy, rogue tornadoes, extreme heat events, freezing temperatures and heavy snowfalls in recent years, service disruptions due to climate change are only likely to increase without increased investment to bolster the system. Inaction can mean lost school and work days, and can harm business and tourism.

1 Comment on "TSTC Releases Second Annual LIRR “Laggy” Analysis"

  1. Although I applaud this initiative, I must question the methodology as I don’t think the LIRR’s performance data can be trusted. Their definition of a “late train” is comical. Perhaps in the future the LIRR’s data can be audited against data collected by the TSTC or another 3rd party. It would be very interesting to see stats not provided by the LIRR. Please do keep up the good work.

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