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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

MTA plan for LIRR repairs at Penn short on specifics

Mind the gap, the venerable Long Island Rail Road warning, will take on an all new meaning during the thick of rush hour once Amtrak repairs begin in Penn Station.

Instead of describing the distance between train and platform, this new gap will be the one Manhattan-bound LIRR commuters will have to bridge at Jamaica, Queens, or Hunterspoint Avenue or Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn to bridge to get into the city.

According to a plan released Monday, 15 trains that used to go the distance into Manhattan during the morning rush instead will be canceled, combined or diverted to points elsewhere.

The same holds true for the trip back, when 17 trains that used to leave from Penn Station will be combined, canceled or instead leave from elsewhere.

Which trains are being canceled or diverted?

A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority suggested I look at each timetable and compile such a list myself — a job commuters might have expected the MTA to do and release as part of its plan.

Instead, the agency put out a seven-page news release, which criticized Amtrak seven times and used the word “robust” to describe the MTA’s plan for getting commuters in and out of Manhattan during the summer six times. The release also included plugs for a variety of efforts, including the LIRR’s Third Track project, Taste New York and the MTA itself.

While generous with self-praise, the document was short on specifics — including the aforementioned list of trains to be canceled, combined or diverted from Penn Station.

Instead, the release concentrated on “passenger capacity” — that is, adding a few more trains, and a few more cars to trains to move the same number of passengers in and out of Penn Station as the LIRR does now.

But commuters don’t care about capacity, and for that matter, the MTA isn’t planning to depend on it much during rush hour either. Otherwise, the plan would have no need for discussing car pools, park and ride locations (with free Taste NY food and beverage, reading materials, phone charging and wi-fi stations) buses and ferries — all of which, in theory at least, will leave the trains with even more rush hour “capacity.”

All LIRR commuters — and for that matter any other paying customer — really cares about is getting from Point A to Point B with as little hassle as possible.

Not this summer.

With 32 LIRR trains being canceled or diverted from Penn Station, more customers will find themselves with no choice but to bridge the gap — in some instances by climbing aboard subways already bursting with rush-hour passengers, in others.

And yet, the MTA release Monday touted a plan that “alleviates anticipated delays and disruptions for LIRR commuters.”

That’s kind of like pushing a rhino through a keyhole.

And that’s why, I’m guessing, the MTA is looking to peel off commuters into buses (which will clog the already clogged LIE), and ferries and whatnot.

Which, to be blunt, makes the assertion that the trains will maintain capacity an illusion.

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