The LIRR’s next major schedule aims to address needed rail infrastructure improvements in Brooklyn and along the South Shore, but does not address lingering complaints from riders whose commutes were upended by the opening of Grand Central Madison, transit officials said.
Long Island Rail Road interim president Catherine Rinaldi has already made several tweaks to address the worst of the crowding and delays that have plagued some riders for the last two months, but has said that larger adjustments would come in a future schedule revision. But those changes are not included in the railroad’s just-released summer schedule, which will be in effect from May 22 until Sept. 4.
That schedule includes some midday schedule changes on the Babylon and Brooklyn branches and overnight adjustments on the Montauk branch. The adjustments aim to accommodate “infrastructure renewal and upgrades in Brooklyn and along the South Shore of Long Island this summer,” according to a railroad statement.
“Train schedules on other branches are not changing significantly,” the railroad said.
Rinaldi said in an interview last month that in “the next schedule change at some point later on this year” the railroad would take lessons from the early weeks of the new service plan and adjust schedules “a little bit beyond what we’re currently doing."
At a Manhattan meeting of the MTA Board on Wednesday, Rinaldi clarified that the railroad is still compiling data about ridership demand and travel patterns.
“We’re looking at all that stuff as we consider what might be appropriate in terms of a schedule change later this year,” she said.
The railroad overhauled its operation in February to accommodate its new service to Grand Central Madison — the new Manhattan rail terminal made possible by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s $11.1 billion East Side Access megaproject. The changes resulted in the cancellation of several trains serving Penn Station, some trains operating with fewer cars than usual, more frequent transfers and the elimination of timed connections.
The railroad has responded to complaints, including by adjusting train times and stopping patterns, rerouting some Grand Central trains back to Penn, and adding cars to the busiest trains. The most recent change came Monday, when the railroad added cars to a particularly crowded evening rush hour train from Penn Station to Huntington.
At a Monday meeting of the MTA’s railroad committee, LIRR Commuter Council chairman Gerard Bringmann said he appreciated the efforts to “tweak the schedule the best you can” since the new service plan was enacted, but urged the railroad to consider one major revision: reinstating timed transfers — in which trains wait for connecting trains — especially during the evening rush hour.
“I’ve just been getting too many complaints. … They miss their connections and they have to wait at Jamaica for an hour,” Bringmann said. “After working a long, hard day, waiting at Jamaica for an hour is no joy.”
Kings Park commuter Darryl Cherwinski has found himself in just that situation several times since February. His 4:12 p.m. train from Grand Central is scheduled to arrive at Jamaica at 4:33, giving him just five minutes to catch the 4:38 to Kings Park. The next train he can take doesn’t leave until 5:13, he said.
“It’s too tight, usually,” said Cherwinski, 57, who believes timed connections are critical for commuters. “In the morning, I don’t think it’s necessary. But in the evening, holding that train for one minute could save me 40 minutes.”
MTA chairman and CEO Janno Lieber said Wednesday that despite some remaining issues to address, LIRR crowding has largely subsided over the last two months, and on-time performance has stabilized. And, Lieber said, ridership has steadily grown, peaking at nearly 217,000 LIRR passengers on Tuesday — the most since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.