MTA names Rob Free LIRR president

April 12, 2024
Free had been serving as LIRR’s acting president for the past six months.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has appointed Rob Free as the 42nd president of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR). Free has been serving as the LIRR’s acting president for the past six months. 

He began his career with the railroad as a station cleaner 31 years ago, rising through the ranks to become chief transportation officer and senior vice president of operations before becoming president. 

Free played a major role in launching of LIRR service to Grand Central Madison, helping to oversee a 41 percent increase in service that accompanied the terminal’s opening, the largest service increase in LIRR history. During his time in LIRR leadership, the MTA also completed the Main Line Third Track project that enabled a 41 percent service increase, opened the first new LIRR station in 50 years at Elmont-UBS Arena and completed an overhaul of the LIRR concourse at Penn Station while continuing to run robust train service all throughout construction.

“Rob Free was the natural choice for the job – a native Long Islander who’s committed his working life to the LIRR, rising through the ranks from cleaner to running operations to now leading North America’s busiest commuter railroad,” said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. “Rob intrinsically understands the level of service customers expect and I know he will continue to deliver in this now permanent role. I would also like to thank Cathy Rinaldi for helping to ease this transition, first serving as interim president of LIRR and then as an advisor to Rob.” 
As president, Free will oversee LIRR’s 24/7 service, 700 miles of tracks and 126 stations – which includes three of the top five busiest commuter railroad stations in North America. Free says a top goal is to boost ridership and continue to adjust schedules to improve on-time performance even more. 

“When I joined the LIRR as a 22-year-old station cleaner, I never imagined that one day I would be running this incredible organization, Free said. “It’s been an amazing journey so far and I am excited to continue to build on our successes and make the riding experience even better for Long Islanders. Ridership continues to climb, with weekdays routinely carrying 230,000-plus riders, as is on-time performance, which has been above 95 percent for three straight months.” 

As acting president, Free promised to prioritize three things:

  • Safety for riders and employees
  • Increased reliability
  • Higher customer satisfaction

During the past six months, Free has delivered in all three areas. MTA Police Department increased its presence on the rails, bringing a greater sense of security to everyone on trains and in stations. LIRR enjoyed it’s best February in 12 years, with 96.3 percent of trains arriving on-time, which is also the sixth-best month in LIRR history.  

MTA says that as a result of the rising ridership and improved on-time performance, customer satisfaction has increased. Free also previously led initiatives that improved customer satisfaction, such as replacing more than 12,000 seat cushions during the past two years and regularly personally surveys platform operations and checks bathrooms to ensure they are clean and in good working order.