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LIRR Ridership Still Only About A Quarter Of Pre-Pandemic Levels

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The Long Island Rail Road is begging its riders to come back. Ridership is just a fraction of what it was before the pandemic, and leaders are asking the public to get off the roads and back on safely disinfected train cars; CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reports.

Video Transcript

- The Long Island railroad is begging its riders to come back just a fraction of what the travel was before the pandemic. And leaders now are asking the public to get off the roads and back on safely disinfected train cars. CBS 2's Carolyn Gusoff reports.

CAROLYN GUSOFF: The Nassau County executive an LIRR of President hopping a train to drive the message, it's safe to get back on board

PHIL ENG: And I can tell you today that the Long Island railroad has never been safer, it's never been cleaner, and it's never been a more reliable commute than it has been in its history.

CAROLYN GUSOFF: The message comes as road traffic is back, tolls have increased, and vaccinations climbing. County executive Curran says a return to mass transit will fuel the region's recovery.

LAURA CURRAN: Getting back to normal safely means taking the train whenever you can.

CAROLYN GUSOFF: Train cars disinfected daily, air filtered every 12 minutes. And, for now, plenty of room to spread out.

- Very comfortable. Safe.

CAROLYN GUSOFF: But the head of LIRR Passengers United says the safety issue is not fully resolved.

CHARLTON D'SOUZA: I saw four people in one car not wearing masks. That's a problem to me. The train crews are frustrated, because they're having a hard time. And I think, at this point, the MT Police Department needs to start issuing tickets.

CAROLYN GUSOFF: This time last year, ridership had plummeted to 3%. It is back now, but still only about a quarter of pre-pandemic levels. Many happy to never go back to a five day a week commute.

- Every day it was like a three hours total commute time. So the difference in like sleep and all that has been huge.

CAROLYN GUSOFF: Working from home a game changer that worries some railroad advocates.

GERRY BRINGMANN: The average commuter is getting two to three hours of their life back every day, five days a week. So it's the reality. It's going to be a problem for the railroad. And it's going to be lost farebox revenue. We'll be lucky to get back to 80% within a couple of years.

CAROLYN GUSOFF: And that could hurt service, and increase fares. But Eng says the railroad can accommodate the new normal welcoming riders back off-hours and inter-island for work and play. Aboard the railroad, Carolyn Gusoff, CBS 2 news.