New York, NY - August 30, 2013 - U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called for a Long Island commuter representative to be appointed to Amtrak’s Board of Directors. Amtrak owns and controls all the rail tunnels connecting Queens and Manhattan, thereby playing a critical, if little known, role in the daily commutes of hundreds of thousands of Long Islanders. Schumer said that despite this, the seven appointed members of Amtrak’s Board of Directors contains no one specifically representing the needs of these commuters. This summer alone, malfunctions in these tunnels have caused six massive delays and disruptions. Schumer said that having a commuter representative from Long Island will increase the focus on the maintenance and improvements of these tunnels, and improve communication to riders. Schumer said that having a commuter representative on the Board could also benefit other states with commuter railroads that share critical infrastructure with Amtrak.
"For beleaguered Long Island commuters, the current situation is transportation without representation," said Schumer. "More commuters use these east river tunnels than ride on Amtrak's entire Northeast Corridor, and they deserve to have someone looking out just for their interests."
Amtrak owns the four single track tunnels that run under the east river, between Penn Station and Queens. These are the tracks that the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) runs on when crossing under the east river, meaning they are used by the vast majority of the railroad's over 300,000 daily riders. According to the most recent statistics, more LIRR passengers move through those tunnels each day than ride Amtrak's entire Northeast Corridor route between Washington and Boston.
Amtrak has a seven member board of directors, but one position is currently vacant. Schumer today is calling for a representative for Long Island commuters to fill that vacancy. Schumer said that because of the vast number of LIRR passengers that use the Amtrak owned tunnels on a daily basis, it’s imperative that a dedicated commuter representative is appointed to the board. This is particularly true because delays in the Amtrak owned tunnels are happening with increasing frequency – there were six this summer alone, compared to only three such incidents in all of 2011, according to Newsday.
Schumer said that Amtrak has worked diligently to improve and repair their system in the Northeast, but that problems are occurring too frequently in these critical tunnels. By appointing a commuter representative from Long Island, additional attention would be focused on these vital assets between Queens and Manhattan. The appointment to the board is made by the President, in consultation with the Department of Transportation (DOT). Schumer today called for the next appointed representative suggested by the DOT to be from Long Island, and to be appointed to guard the interest of Long Island riders and other commuters traveling across Amtrak’s New York infrastructure.