The Long Island Rail Road reduced the number of trains...

The Long Island Rail Road reduced the number of trains it operated in March 2020, when the COVID-19 outbreak caused ridership to plummet. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Long Island Rail Road commuters will begin 2022 with some new options, as the LIRR is restoring several trains that were eliminated as part of COVID-19 service reductions.

The additions take effect on Jan. 3 and include eight westbound morning rush-hour trains — three on the Babylon branch, and one each on the Ronkokoma, Huntington/Port Jefferson, Port Washington, Oyster Bay and Montauk branches.

Seven eastbound, evening peak-hour trains will be added: two on the Babylon branch, two on the Port Washington branch, and one each on the Ronkonkoma, Oyster Bay and Montauk branches.

Other changes include the restoration of the 10:52 p.m. train from Penn Station to Babylon, and some other adjustments to train departure times. The full schedule is available at mta.info/lirr.

The new timetables constitute one of the most significant increases in service since the railroad reduced the number of trains it operated in March 2020, when the COVID-19 outbreak caused ridership to plummet. The LIRR currently operates about 85% of the trains that it did in December 2019.

As ridership has steadily climbed in recent months — reaching as high as 58% of pre-pandemic levels in late November — commuters have urged the LIRR to bring back more trains, both to give them more options and to prevent crowding on trains.

"We expect that we will continue to see growth come … early 2022," LIRR president Phillip Eng said last week. "We’re consistently working with and keeping in contact with businesses and watching what they decide to do, so we make sure we’re ahead of them."

Gerard Bringmann, chairman of the LIRR Commuter Council, a rider advocacy group, said he was "thrilled" about the additions.

"This is what we were asking for," said Bringmann, who added he understands the need to cut train service as well. "We understand there has to be some adjustments, but you can’t have over an hour gaps [between trains] at rush hour, which they’ve addressed."

The LIRR also learned Wednesday that an appellate court had ruled in its favor in a battle against the Village of Garden City over the railroad’s $2.6 billion Third Track project.

The state Supreme Court Appellate Division – Second Judicial Department denied Garden City’s appeal of an earlier court ruling ordering the village to issue the LIRR work permits to replace a rail bridge over Denton Avenue. The bridge must be widened to accommodate the new track, which will span from Floral Park to Hicksville.

The village had said the LIRR did not follow the proper procedure in applying for the permit. The railroad alleged that the village was withholding the permit because it wanted the LIRR to relocate several utility poles that residents say were erected too close to their homes.

An LIRR spokesperson said the railroad was pleased with the ruling, which should result in the LIRR being issued the work permit. Village officials did not respond to a request for comment.

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