Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) implemented planned service cuts the morning of Monday, March 8, in spite of objections made weeks ago by union leadership and echoed by New York state senators just before the cuts went into effect.
This photo, provided by a LIRR worker to Alternate Vice President/General Chairperson Anthony Simon, shows a crowded Long Island Rail Road car early March 8, the day LIRR implemented service cuts.
Crowded cars and the potential for the early morning commute from places like New Hyde Park or Jamaica Station to become a COVID spreader event with no opportunity for social distancing, as shown by photos provided to SMART-TD Alternate Vice President Anthony Simon by frontline workers, thousands of whom he represents as general chairperson of GCA-505.
“These reductions have now made Long Island Rail Road service unsafe as far as allowing for social distancing is concerned,” Simon said.
In response to LIRR leadership’s implementation of the cuts, which reduced weekday service to the equivalent of what the system offers on the weekend, more than 3,000 unionized workers from SMART, SMART-TD and six other labor unions submitted the following message via email on March 8:
“WE THE UNDERSIGNED; ARE LIRR WORKERS WHO ARE OUTRAGED BY THE DECISION TO REDUCE SERVICE FOR LIRR RIDERS AT A TIME WHEN OPENING THE ECONOMY, CONTINUED DISTANCING, INCENTIVIZING CUSTOMERS TO RETURN AND PRIORITIZING THE USE OF FEDERAL DOLLARS IS CRUCIAL TO A FULL AND SAFE RECOVERY. WE ARE DISGUSTED THAT THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THESE CUTS AND THE INSENSITIVITY TO OUR QUALITY OF LIFE FOR OUR FRONT-LINE CRAFTS HAS DESTROYED OUR MORALE AND TRUST IN THE AGENCY. WE DEMAND YOU LISTEN TO YOUR “HEROES” AND RESTORE SERVICE FOR THE BETTERMENT OF OUR SYSTEM.”
In addition to Simon, SMART-Mechanical Division General Chairperson John McCloskey and TD yardmaster General Chairperson Michael Miele signed the letter addressed to New York Metropolitan Transit Agency Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye and LIRR President Phillip Eng.
“The MTA’s desire to outsource our work, disregard our membership’s quality of life and forget about what we have delivered throughout a global pandemic is inexcusable,” the union leaders stated. “We certainly hope you can get on the right track in winning us back for the good of this great railroad that we have built and have always been proud to serve. Until then, we will continue to work hard for our customers with the understanding that there is a lack of good faith and insufficient appreciation toward our members from leadership.”
Other unions that signed on to the letter included the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; Transportation Communications Union; International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers; National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU 32BJ; Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen; and Independent Railway Supervisors Association.
SMART Transportation Division Alternate Vice President and General Chairperson Anthony Simon and eight New York state senators took the CEO and chairman of the New York Metropolitan Transit Agency to task for planned service reductions for the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR).
The carrier plans to reduce weekday service to the equivalent of a weekend schedule beginning March 8, a move described by state Sen. James Gaughran and seven colleagues as operating LIRR as a “skeleton service.”
“We urge you to reconsider this decision and withhold implementation of the planned service reduction,” the senators wrote in their letter, dated March 3. “These ridership cuts will negatively impact countless essential workers, like the workers of the MTA, who rely on public transportation to earn a living, support their families, and contribute to our economy.”
In his letter dated Feb. 24, Simon communicated to MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye that this course of action also did not seem to be a sound strategy as a potential spring economic awakening for New York City appears to be approaching.
Alternate Vice President and GCA-505 General Chairperson Anthony Simon appears Sept. 30 at a rally in New York City.
“While the MTA should be incentivizing customers back to the system, why would we choose now to reduce service further?” wrote GC Simon of GCA-505, which represents SMART-TD members employed by LIRR. “It makes no sense that riders should now have to return to a system with limited service opportunities and potential concerns for safe distancing capabilities when vaccine availability is improving and both federal and state leaders are attempting to stimulate the economy.”
The service reductions were supposed to last only until particular projects were completed by LIRR but could now be extended past the May 23 date that LIRR had given, according to Simon.
“Our members have weathered the effects of this pandemic as the heroes you’ve gratefully declared them to be time and time again. They have delivered to the riding public through some of the most difficult times in the history of our railroad,” Simon wrote. “Now is the time for them to continue delivering by leaving the adjusted weekday schedule as is and not seek a limited savings opportunity by creating a disincentive for our customers to come back.”
What is SMART-TD on Long Island, N.Y., doing during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Sheet Metal Local 137 manufactured signs thanking TD members who continue to work on Long Island Rail Road through this pandemic. “Thanks to Dante Dano and Pete Scaglione,” said General Chairperson Anthony Simon. “They have been so supportive to the TD LIRR, I cannot express enough how we are all in this together.”
“Thank you to GC John McCloskey for his help and support in getting signs and with locations. The partnership is just unbelievable and appreciated,” Simon said. The reaction from the membership after the signs went up has been overwhelming
New York City and its bordering suburbs and counties have been among the hardest-hit in the nation by the coronavirus due to its density and the demands of the city’s economic engine driven by the financial and business districts.
Like most transportation systems, the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) has been deemed an essential service for health care workers, emergency responders, police officers, firefighters, city and state essential workers and countless other professions.
A Long Island Rail Road conductor works during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are some of the ways union leadership on Long Island and SMART members continue to deliver.
While required to continue working, tremendous safety efforts have been achieved through the issuance of proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), manpower manipulations to allow for social distancing, constant disinfecting efforts to protect work locations, paid administrative sick leave to accommodate the hundreds of positive tested members and associated quarantines, and so many additional safety precautions to protect workers.
Members have been working around the clock cleaning and sanitizing over 1,000 train cars on an aggressive schedule, and our maintenance of equipment workers are continuing to inspect and repair our equipment to all of the standards outlined by federal authorities.
Engineering forces in the track and building and bridge ranks are continuing to build and maintain the system during this health crisis. Huge projects such as the over $11 billion East Side Access project to allow service to New York City’s Grand Central Station in addition to three other major city terminals continue. The mainline third track expansion continues along the central corridor of Long Island to add to the over 700 miles of track and 124 stations.
Front-line train crews are continuing to provide a modified essential service plan requiring flexibility, dedication and sacrifice working in vulnerable conditions. They are providing safe service and collecting whatever fares possible as safely as they can during the pandemic.
Union officials are providing administrative support to the varying work locations hit hardest by the virus to ensure crew dispatching, payroll and PPE issuance are all expedited appropriately.
After more than 60 COVID-19-related deaths at the MTA, the governing agency of the LIRR, SMART leadership has negotiated an additional $500,000 death benefit package to include health benefits for the beneficiary of any COVID-19 related deaths within our membership.
Union leadership has worked closely with agency heads and management to provide whatever benefits possible during this extremely troubling time, such as priority COVID testing, relaxed and paid sick leave rules, relaxed time keeping and travel arrangements, etc.
Union leadership is lobbying for additional federal funding needed to recoup billions of dollars of revenue lost during this crippling time.
General Chairperson Anthony Simon has worked closely with General Chairperson John McCloskey on the mechanical side in achieving protections and benefits for all SMART workers.
Long Island Rail Road workers pose for a picture after cleaning a car during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those are some of the collective efforts of GCA-505 in Babylon, N.Y., which represents SMART-TD’s workers on LIRR in a region hit hard by the coronavirus with tens of thousands of deaths reported there.
But the GCA’s leaders insist it’s just what they do, and what members expect from them.
“During catastrophic times is when leaders need to step up, lead and not hide,” said Vice General Chairperson Vinnie Tessitore. “Under General Chairperson Anthony Simon’s leadership, and through a dedicated team of union officials, we are out front making tough decisions and demands to secure and protect our workforce.”
Simon, also a SMART-TD alternate vice president, said it has taken a total team effort and cooperation from all to continue to endure the challenges of the coronavirus.
“I could not be prouder of our elected union officials and our membership for their hard work and sacrifices during this pandemic,” Simon said. “I am out in the field every day with our railroad family as they continue to work through this crisis, and my foot will remain on the gas to achieve what they have earned for their heroic efforts.”
Long Island Rail Road workers tend to the track during the coronavirus pandemic.
SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy Ferguson said that those efforts are shining through by protecting both employee and public alike and minimizing disruption.
“It’s a relief to finally receive some good news! On a normal day and in normal times, SMART-TD’s members and leadership in the New York City/New Jersey area have demands placed on them that often can exceed those of other metropolitan areas just because of the size of the agencies we serve and the population, but as always, our SMART-TD membership and our officers on the LIRR never cease to amaze me.” Ferguson said. “They are the toughest and most resilient Brotherhood that, I, too, am so very proud to have the opportunity to work with and represent as President of the Transportation Division. SMART-TD on the LIRR is leading the way on every front and thankfully giving the membership a solid footing to defend themselves from this disaster.
“Anthony Simon and Vinnie Tessitore have stepped up to make sure LIRR keeps trains clean and running for public and the workers alike so that what is considered ‘essential’ stays running. They’re an example of what solidarity can do — for all of labor to see. I do want everyone to know we’re with you in this, and we will all be there together to the end.”
Richard Brzozinski, 78, is remembered as a compassionate man and model employee of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) in a recent story by Newsday.
“A veteran Long Island Rail Road conductor on the Babylon line, Brzozinski made a habit of learning the names of all of his regular passengers and their spouses. He’d arrive to work every morning in a freshly pressed uniform. And Brzozinski would always ensure that a seat was saved for his elderly passengers,” Robert Brodsky of Newsday wrote.
The story further gives accounts of praise from passengers who wrote to MTA about Brzozinski and recounts two separate incidences where Brzozinski was called upon to save passengers’ lives with the use of CPR.
SMART-TD Alternate Vice President Anthony Simon is quoted, saying, “Richie was always a professional and always demanded perfection from his co-workers. He wore his uniform impeccably and made sure his crew members did the same. He prioritized the safety and service to our customers, led by example, and received the respect of everyone he overlapped because of those principles.”
Brother Brzozinski began his membership with UTU Local 645 (Babylon, N.Y.) in August 1961, following in his dad’s footsteps as a conductor for the LIRR. He worked for a time with his father John and younger brother Jack (retired LIRR engineer). He retired with 38 years of service in 1999.
Brzozinski died in his home Nov. 19, 2019, after a three-year battle with heart disease. He is survived by his wife Mary; two sons; brother Jack; sisters Joanne, Linda and Sharon; and two grandchildren Jack and Jenna.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Americans took more than 2.5 billion passenger trips on public transportation in the second quarter of 2019, according to the quarterly Transit Ridership Report released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), representing 11 million trips more than during the same period last year.
These second-quarter results show an increase of nearly 0.5% across all modes compared to the second quarter of 2018, APTAA said in a news release summarizing the report. This includes a rise of 1.44% for heavy rail, 3.54% for commuter rail systems, 0.5% in bus systems in population areas exceeding 2 million people, and 1.51% in systems in communities of less than 100,000 residents, APTA said.
Among commuter rail carriers that saw notable increases, the New York MTA’s Long Island Rail Road saw an increase of 10.6%. SMART TD represents employees of the carrier.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that two commuter railroad terminal accidents in the New York area were caused by engineer fatigue resulting from undiagnosed severe obstructive sleep apnea.
The Sept. 29, 2016, accident on the New Jersey Transit railroad at Hoboken, New Jersey, killed one person, injured 110, and resulted in major damage to the station. The Jan. 4, 2017, accident on the Long Island Rail Road at the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, New York, injured 108 people. Both accidents involved trains that struck end-of-track bumping posts and crashed into stations.
The NTSB found the two accidents had “almost identical” probable causes and safety issues. The board also determined that these safety issues were not unique to these two properties, but exist throughout the country at many intercity passenger and commuter passenger train terminals.
When operating a train into a terminating track, the engineer’s actions, or lack thereof, solely determine whether the train stops before the end of the track. According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), there are currently no mechanisms installed in the U.S. that will automatically stop a train at the end of the track if the engineer is incapacitated, inattentive or disengaged. Some railroads have overspeed capabilities, including New Jersey Transit and the LIRR. However, as shown in these two accidents, once the engineer slowed the train to the prescribed speed, the system did not stop the trains before they reached the end of the track.
In addition to recommending safety-sensitive personnel be screened for obstructive sleep apnea, the board recommended the use of technology, such as positive train control (PTC), in terminal stations and improving the effectiveness of system safety program plans to improve terminal operations. The NTSB made two recommendations to New Jersey Transit, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (the parent company of the Long Island Rail Road) and two to the FRA.
“Today’s new recommendations, if acted upon, have the potential to eliminate end-of-track collisions,’’ Sumwalt said. “That translates to protection for passengers on trains, and for people standing on terminal platforms.”
The complete accident report will be available in several weeks. The findings, probable cause, safety recommendations, Chairman Sumwalt’s prepared remarks and PowerPoint presentations used in a board meeting are all available at https://go.usa.gov/xnscj.
The New Jersey Transit Hoboken accident docket, containing more than 1,100 pages of supporting factual material, is available at https://go.usa.gov/xnAGJ.
The Long Island Rail Road Brooklyn accident docket, containing more than 1,400 pages of supporting factual material, is available at https://go.usa.gov/xnAGe.
New Jersey Transit train #1614 after crashing into the NJT Hoboken Terminal, Sept. 29, 2016. (NTSB photo taken by Chris O’Neil)
One of two Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) commuter lines reopened this morning following the crash that occurred Saturday night when a commuter train sideswiped a work train that was blocking the track. Read the complete story from NYDailyNews.com.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced April 24 that the Federal Railroad Administration has approved a loan of $967.1 million to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the improvement of the safety of the signal systems used by the MTA’s two commuter railroads, the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad. The loan, which is the largest and lowest-cost financing for the MTA, will finance the installment of positive train control, a technology designed to remove the potential for human error that can lead to train-involved accidents.
“This loan is a dramatic investment in the MTA – one that will make trains safer for all riders on Metro-North and the LIRR,” Gov. Cuomo said. “With this infusion of funding, crews will be getting to work on individual cars and along hundreds of miles of track to install state of the art technology that can save lives. This loan could not have been possible without the hard work and support of U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Acting FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg, and I thank them on behalf of all MTA commuter rail customers for helping us make this important advancement possible.”
MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said, “We are delighted to have been able to work with the Federal Railroad Administration to make this historic, and extremely important award possible. The most important thing we do each day is strive to ensure the safety of our passengers, our employees, and the public at large. This award will help us enhance that effort in a very significant way.”
Positive train control is a technology that allows computerized systems to automatically control certain aspects of train movement. It is intended to prevent train-to-train collisions, trains accidentally traveling into areas where track workers are working, or derailments caused by excessive train speed or the movement of a train through an improperly aligned switch. The technology can address situations like the Spuyten Duyvil derailment in the Bronx, where a train was going faster than its maximum allowable speed. Congress mandated the installation of positive train control in 2008 for all commuter railroads in the U.S.
Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road are in the process of implementing the technology, which includes the installation of on-board components for 1,455 rail cars and transponders alongside 588 route miles of track. In November 2013, the MTA awarded a contract to a joint venture of Bombardier Transportation and Siemens Rail Automation to act as a systems integrator that will provide the design, furnish equipment and ensure that the system functions as intended. LIRR and Metro-North forces and some third party contracts will support installations of wayside, office, communications and on-board equipment. Installation of positive train control on Metro-North territory in the State of Connecticut will be funded by the Connecticut Department of Transportation.
The loan is the largest to have been made through the FRA’s Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Program and remains subject to MTA Board Approval on April 29 and final closing in May. The MTA will issue its Transportation Revenue Bond directly to the Federal Railroad Administration and will repay the obligation over 22½ years at a fixed interest rate of 2.38 percent. MTA’s Transportation Revenue Bonds are rated “AA-” from Standard & Poor’s, “A2” from Moody’s, and “A” from Fitch.
U.S. Rep. Charlie B. Rangel said, “Nothing is more important than ensuring the wellbeing of New Yorkers. I applaud Governor Cuomo’s commitment to improving safety measures on Metro-North and LIRR, so that all commuters in our great State can ride knowing they are in secure hands.”
U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel said, “MTA services are an indispensable part of my constituents’ everyday lives. Thousands of commuters rely on the MTA daily to travel to work, home or school. They expect – and should receive – a safe train ride. Implementing positive train control is a critical step making this expectation a reality. The tragedies that occurred at Spuyten Duyvil in 2013 and in Westchester earlier this year may have been avoided if this life-saving technology had been in place. While we cannot assuage the pain and grief that these accidents have caused, we can make every effort to create a better railroad moving forward. I applaud the DOT and the Federal Railroad Administration for recognizing the need for this technology in the MTA system, and am very pleased that all rail travelers can experience a safer ride.”
U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey said, “I’m pleased that MTA’s application to install positive train control technology has been approved by the Federal Railroad Administration. Securing this funding would help ensure that disastrous events like the December 2013 Metro North accident never happen again. Over the last year, I have worked tirelessly to highlight the need for additional resources to help commuter railroads install PTC, and I will continue to work with federal and state officials to ensure that MTA gets the resources it needs to keep its riders safe.”
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks said, I’d like to thank Governor Cuomo for prioritizing the modernization and improvement of the Long Island Railroad and Metro-North Railroad’s 1500 railcars and hundreds of miles of track along our country’s busiest commuter rail system. This unprecedented investment of nearly $1 billion in the LIRR and Metro will improve safety for riders public, transit workers for decades to come.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Israel said, “This federal loan is a vital step to improving railway safety. I applaud the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Department of Transportation on their hard work to secure this loan, and I will continue to fight for federal resources for critical New York infrastructure.”
The Long Island Rail Road is on pace to close out the year, once again, as the busiest commuter rail system in the United States — this time by a much wider margin over Metro-North than last year.
Transportation experts attributed the LIRR’s widening lead over its sister MTA railroad to the recovering economy, LIRR’s investments in service, and a spate of safety-related incidents on Metro-North.
Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road won approval from a committee of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Board of Directors on Monday, Nov. 17, 2014 to award contracts totaling $34.6 million for the purchase of inward- and outward-facing cameras in the cabs of their rail fleets.
A total of 2,064 rail cars and locomotives will be outfitted under the base, 36-month contract, which the full MTA Board will consider for approval on Wednesday, Nov. 19.