It's not often that the nation's oldest commuter railroad adds a new station. In fact, it has been 43 years since it last did so.
And so the Long Island Rail Road's recent announcement of a new full-time "Elmont Station" serving a proposed 19,000-seat arena at Belmont Park understandably has raised questions.
Although many details of the project, and its impact on LIRR riders and nonriders are unclear, much already is known. Here are answers to some of the most important questions about the station, compiled from the LIRR, Empire State Development, and an environmental study conducted by the project's developer.
Where will the new station be located?
The station will be built on the LIRR’s Main Line, between Bellerose and Queens Village stations, and just east of the Cross Island Parkway. It will be accessible on the south side from Belmont Park's north parking lot, and from the north from Superior Road in Bellerose Terrace. The station, which actually will be about three-quarters of a mile from the arena, will be built on LIRR property.
How will travelers get from the new LIRR station to the arena and back?
The project’s private developer plans to run electric shuttle buses that would transport riders between the station and the arena on a loop route, as well as to and from the complex’s proposed hotel and retail village. It is not clear yet who would operate the buses, how often they will run, and what their capacity will be.
When will the station open?
The LIRR expects to begin running some eastbound service at the station beginning in October 2021 — in time for the opening of the new arena. The station will be fully operational for both eastbound and westbound customers in late 2022, according to the railroad.
What will it cost to take the train to and from the new station?
The cost of a trip to and from the station is not yet clear, in part because the proposed site of the station straddles two LIRR fare zones. Currently, a one-way, off-peak ticket between Queens Village, which is in Zone 3, and Hicksville is $7.25. A one-way, off-peak ticket between Hicksville and Bellerose, which is in Zone 4, costs $3.25 — an amount discounted to encourage train travel within Long Island. The MTA Board will decide the cost of the fare.
What branches will have access to the station?
The station will be served by the Hempstead branch trains at all times. On arena event days, the LIRR eventually could run trains there on other Main Line branches, including Huntington/Port Jefferson and Oyster Bay. The LIRR said that decision would be made based on available capacity. LIRR customers from other branches could transfer at Jamaica for connecting service to Elmont.
How often will trains stop at the station?
Initially, service levels at Elmont are expected to be similar to neighboring station Bellerose, where Hempstead branch trains run every half-hour during peak hours and every hour during off-peak hours. But the railroad expects to expand service to Elmont with the completion of several capacity-expansion projects, including the third track between Floral Park and Hicksville and the East Side Access link to Grand Central Terminal — both scheduled for completion in 2022. After then, the railroad will be able to have trains from other Main Line branches stop at Elmont.
How long will it take to get there?
The LIRR expects the Elmont trip to take about 34 minutes from Penn Station, about 11 minutes from Jamaica, about 25 minutes from Hicksville and about 50 minutes from Ronkonkoma.
What will the station look like?
According to the LIRR and to artists’ renderings, the station will feature a glass-enclosed overpass with elevators connecting the north and south side platforms, glass platform canopies, brick shelter sheds, LED lighting, ticket vending machines, electronic signage, benches, charging ports, an art installation and bicycle racks. The platforms are expected to be long enough to accommodate 10 to 12 train cars, although, when the station opens, it initially will have just one platform for eastbound trains that will accommodate eight cars.
What will the parking situation be?
The parking lot north of the Belmont racetrack, which has 2,860 spaces, will be next to the station and be shared by weekday LIRR commuters and arena patrons, with 150 devoted strictly for LIRR customers. Officials anticipate that parking permits would be sold to Hempstead Town residents. It is not clear what the fee would be.
Will the station result in additional crowding on existing LIRR trains?
With project officials estimating that as many as 30 percent of arena eventgoers will take the train, the station will mean more riders on trains during event days. But the railroad projects it will have enough capacity on its Hempstead branch to handle additional riders. Project officials don’t expect the station to result in new daily LIRR commuters traveling to and from jobs in New York City, although some existing commuters could choose to travel to and from Elmont instead of other neighboring stations because they may find it easier to get a parking space or to get there from the Cross Island Parkway.
Will an additional stop make the trip longer for non-Elmont riders?
LIRR officials have said making an additional stop could add two to three minutes to trips, but that could be longer if there are large crowds waiting to board a train after an event.
What is the cost of the station, and who is paying for it?
The station is estimated to cost $105 million. Private developer New York Arena Partners — a partnership of the owners of the Islanders, New York Mets and the arena development company, Oak View Group — will initially contribute $30 million and the state will cover the remaining $75 million. The developers will then pay back the state $67 million over time, officials said.
What are some potential benefits of the station?
Project supporters say the station will allow for improved access to the arena, especially for people traveling from points east who cannot get to the existing Belmont station directly. Improved public transportation options also could help offset some of the expected traffic near the arena, prevent drunken driving incidents, and give arena-goers an option to avoid traffic and parking fees. It also will provide a new daily transportation option for commuters living or working near the station.
What are some concerns about the station?
Local residents and elected officials have raised concerns about the impact of construction on their quality of life, including from potential environmental contaminants in the ground. They also say that extra traffic near the station could jam local streets — including near a local elementary school — and slow down emergency response times. They have called for an expanded environmental study of the proposed station. The state has studied the environmental impact of the station as part of a larger review of the arena project.
What becomes of the existing Belmont station?
The little-used Belmont Park station, which will be next to the arena, is still a key piece of the transportation plan, particularly for customers traveling to and from points west. On days with scheduled events at the arena, the LIRR will provide special shuttle trains between Jamaica Station and Belmont Station before and after events. The price tag for the station includes funding for upgraded track switches and signals at the existing station, which underwent a $5 million renovation in 2015.
When is the last time the LIRR built a station?
The last year-round station to be added to the LIRR system was at the Southhampton Campus station on the railroad’s Montauk line in Shinnecock Hills, which opened in 1976. It was closed in 1998. The newest LIRR station still in regular operation is Massapequa Park, which opened in 1933.