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LIRR App Updates Let Users Check Train Capacity, Pick Less Crowded Cars

COPIAGUE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- The Long Island Rail Road mobile app is getting a major update with new features that can be critical in the age of social distancing.

The desire for a COVID-safe, socially distanced ride is number one on the minds of commuters, according to the LIRR.

"I tend to like it when I get in a car that's less crowded," said one rider.

"With our new release today, riders can see ahead of time exactly how crowded the trains they're considering will be," said LIRR Chief Innovation Officer Will Fisher.

There's a live digital app for that. The new features, which can be accessed at home or on the platform, allows users to choose less crowded cars before they get into the station.

"The real-time information the day of, then you can actually pick which car you want to sit in," LIRR President Phil Eng said.


"It would be very helpful, obviously because you would want to know where to get on," LIRR commuter Bach Alhavi told CBS2's Jennifer McLogan.

The crowds are measured not only by allowing LIRR access to your trip but also by sophisticated sensors built into a car's suspension to detect how many people are on board.

A color-coded system then alerts users what percentage of a car's seats are full.

"Unfortunately, there's nothing we can really do about the mad dash through Penn Station," said Gerard Bringmann with the LIRR Commuter Council.

The LIRR Commuter Council says masks, hand sanitizer and courtesy will go only so far if federal funding is cut.

"So this will go from being critical to very critical," Bringmann said.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The LIRR invested about $100,000 in the new technology and hopes to achieve savings in the long run by using it to measure ridership rather than hiring outside contractors to count passengers.

"I think it's a great idea. I think it would make people feel safer when they're traveling," one rider said.

"Helpful to protect the passengers against COVID," another rider said.

With ridership at just 27%, the LIRR is hoping the updates will help lure back commuters.

The LIRR Train Time app is free to download and will update every three seconds. It's available in English, Spanish and Chinese. Click here for more information about the app.

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