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LIRR adds service to Riverhead, bus links to Greenport

Commuters crowd platforms at the Hicksville LIRR train

Commuters crowd platforms at the Hicksville LIRR train station and attempt to board as they return to work. (Nov. 5, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Long Island Rail Road further increased service Tuesday, adding stops in Riverhead and Hunterspoint Avenue a week after superstorm Sandy hobbled LIRR service.

The railroad added five trains each way between Ronkonkoma and Riverhead, with bus links to and from Greenport, LIRR spokesman Salvatore Arena said. A track washout in Mattituck has delayed attempts to restore train service straight through to Greenport, he said.

The LIRR is gradually recovering from Sandy, which dropped trees and utility poles on tracks and knocked out power to most of the system.

The demand for public transportation was driven even higher by motorists looking to conserve gas, officials said.

The LIRR was running about 40 to 45 percent of the trains it would normally run, because it has access to only two of the four East River tunnels for rail traffic into Penn Station, Arena said Tuesday morning. The other two were flooded during last week's storm.

"With the trains we're running, we're experiencing crowding and we're telling people, especially if they get on at stops closer to New York City, they're not going to get a seat," he said.

Minor delays are being caused by longer loading times as passengers enter the cars, and those delays accumulate as the trains approach the city, he said.

Off-peak fares are still in effect and there is no penalty charge for commuters buying tickets onboard.

Long Island commuters had packed in shoulder to shoulder as they returned to the rails in big numbers on Monday.

The railroad had restored some service on all lines except Long Beach in time for Monday's morning commute. But with infrequent service on most lines, customers endured major crowding on trains -- once they could get onboard.

"Let's call it the sardine local," said Philip Schwaeber, 53, of Plainview, who squeezed onto the 5:47 a.m. train from Hicksville on Monday. "There were people who were not able to get on. . . . It was wall-to-wall-people."

After transporting only a fraction of its usual ridership last week, the LIRR moved about 69,000 people Monday morning -- about 77 percent of an average weekday load, customer service vice president Joe Calderone said Monday.

The railroad warned that it may have to restrict entry into Penn Station during the busiest times in the evening.

"We're going to see this for as long as we have this issue with the tunnels. We just don't have the space," said Calderone, who implored customers to stagger their trips to avoid peak-travel hours. "If people can just go in a little later, they would help themselves and help the system."

The Long Beach line, which was hardest hit by Sandy, remains suspended. The LIRR is honoring Long Beach branch tickets for travel on all lines.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority's subway system also continued its steady climb back. Five of seven tunnels flooded during the storm were cleared, and some heavily used lines, including the A, C and E, were back in service.

Subway riders, too, dealt with overcrowding on Monday. Jeanette Navarro, 41, who usually gets a seat on the 6 train, Monday was pressed against a door.

"People were pushing each other to get on," said Navarro, 41, who also witnessed an argument over a seat escalate to jacket-pulling and yelling. "To see a fight over a chair, I just don't want to see it."

Nassau's NICE Bus system on Monday had completed restoration of service on all 48 routes, but riders were advised to expect delays and detours.

The Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, formerly the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, remains closed. In the Queens Midtown Tunnel, one lane of the south tube of will be open Tuesday for buses only heading into Manhattan from 6 to 10 a.m., and for buses only leaving Manhattan from 3 to 7 p.m.

With Nicholas Spangler


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