Jan. 27--The Long Island Rail Road is once again the busiest commuter railroad in North America, but just barely, according to Metropolitan Transportation Authority figures.
The LIRR edged out sister MTA railroad Metro-North in the annual ridership race to reclaim the title, which it held for decades until Metro-North ridership surpassed that of the LIRR in 2011.
Officially, the LIRR carried 83,384,250 riders in 2013 -- 5,745 more than Metro-North's 83,378,505.
LIRR officials said the annual ridership figure was the seventh highest in more than 60 years, and the highest since the railroad set a record in 2008 with 87.4 million riders.
Howard Permut, retiring president of Metro-North, noted Monday that the railroad lost at least 600,000 riders because of several major service disruptions. They included last month's deadly Bronx derailment, another derailment near Bridgeport in May, and a Con Edison electrical outage in September that affected New Haven service for nearly two weeks.
Metro-North's ridership has otherwise steadily climbed during the last decade. And its East of Hudson lines, which carry most Metro-North riders, set a record in 2013 with 81.8 million riders.
The LIRR attributed its gain of 1.6 million riders last year to several factors, including an improving economy and enhanced service to Brooklyn and to the Hamptons.
"When you increase service, people take advantage of increased service," said MTA board member Mitchell Pally, of Stony Brook.
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