LIRR offers more assistance to disabled riders after 7 On Your Side report

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The Long Island Rail Road announced new services for customers Tuesday following a 7 On Your Side Investigation exposing a lack of assistance for riders with disabilities.

The Eyewitness News investigation found employees seemingly ignoring passengers in need of assistance and other employees admittedly unaware of riders who needed help even after those riders had used LIRR's call ahead system.

"And then I'm stuck," rider Gary Perro said. "It's stressful."

Those who rely on a wheelchair or scooter need employees to set out a ramp to help them bridge the gap between the train and the platform.

"We're yelling help, and there's nobody there," Gina Belmonte said.

Several riders wrote Eyewitness News complaining about missed stops and accidents when train doors closed on them because help did not arrive.

"I can almost guarantee it," Perro said, referencing the likelihood he would encounter a problem while riding the LIRR.

7 on Your Side Investigates took those concerns to LIRR President Phillip Eng, who promised changes. And on Tuesday, he officially unveiled new customer service ambassadors in orange vests at some of the railroad's busiest stops -- including Penn Station, Jamaica Station and Atlantic Terminal. Eng said he was hearing similar complaints from riders and wanted to address their concerns.

According to Eng, the ambassadors will be available from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. to escort riders in need of assistance onto trains. Riders can ask for this assistance at the customer service desk at Penn Station and at the ticket offices at Jamaica Station and Atlantic Terminal.

LIRR asks that riders request assistance 15 minutes before a scheduled departure.

The ambassador will also coordinate with the train's conductor to ensure the rider has assistance at their destination.

While the ambassadors will only be at three of the LIRR's more than 120 stops, the railroad also launched a new 24/7 on-call system.

Riders at stations without ambassadors can call 718-LIRR-CARE (718-547-7227) at least two hours before a planned trip to schedule assistance.

"My focus each and every day is to find ways to improve our customer service," Eng said. "We take customer service feedback seriously and I'm proud to deliver something our customers deserve."

Eng said the LIRR will also look at expanding the ambassador program to additional stations and terminals in the future, as well as making other improvements as they receive feedback from riders.

Riders needing assistance said they were encouraged by these improvements.

CLICK HERE for more information on LIRR accessibility.


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