One Year Later

Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) President Helena Williams
Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) President Helena Williams; Photo courtesy of the MTA

Pete Donohue of the New York Daily News takes a look at Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) President Helena Williams first year on the job. Here is his report:

Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams has been fixated on the “Jamaica Crawl.”

It’s not a dance craze but the maddening deceleration of LIRR trains when they go through Jamaica, Queens, the railroad’s busiest and most complicated juncture – where multiple branches converge.

“No matter what, trains slow down to 15 mph and under even if not stopping in Jamaica,” Williams said.

It was just one year ago that Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO Elliot Sander hired Williams as president of the LIRR, the first female head of the nation’s largest commuter train operation.

The first 12 months have gone “incredibly fast” as she tackled such complex issues as how to best modernize the dizzying array of signals and switches at Jamaica so the LIRR can speed trains through the hub, Williams said.

“I don’t think the customers or employees care if the president is male or female,” she added. “They just care that the president is getting the work done.”

So far, there has been one notable achievement. The railroad’s on-time performance last year was 94.07% – its best ever.

“We’re just extremely proud of that, and our employees are very proud of that as well,” Williams said.

Williams, a mother of three, has had a career marked by top-level transportation management and government positions, including president of MTA Long Island Bus and Nassau County deputy executive. A lawyer, she began her career in the mayor’s office of municipal labor relations.

That background paid off.

Sander hired Williams in June 2007, extending a contract paying her $215,000 – plus a monthly housing allowance and retirement contributions. The terms of the contract, signed before the MTA’s fiscal crisis erupted, granted a $14,000 raise Jan. 1 and will grant another raise of that sum next January.

I feel Helena was an excellent hire by Elliot Sander during his short tenure at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. One can argue that she has been his best hire so far. The employees I know who work for the Long Island Rail Road have noted how efficient operations have become since she was hired. I have heard this on multiple occasions so there is definitely something to her way of doing things. I along with many others can only hope the next year brings even more improvement for the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR).

xoxo Transit Blogger

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Any idea when the “Jamaica Crawl” will be improved?

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