Long Island Rail Road riders will have many more options to travel into and out of New York City upon the completion of East Side Access later this year, according to proposed timetables released by the LIRR Thursday.
But not all commuters are looking forward to the changes, which include fewer morning trains into Penn Station, no more scheduled transfers at Jamaica, and the elimination of most direct trips between Long Island and Brooklyn.
Speaking at a Long Island Association meeting in Melville Thursday morning, before the new timetables were published, LIRR interim president Catherine Rinaldi said they represent a “revolutionary” change for the railroad, and an “opportunity to … re-imagine and re-envision how we provide transportation service” to Long Island.
“It is no exaggeration to say that there is no railroad or public transportation system in America that is getting greater service increases than the Long Island Rail Road will be getting in a few short months,” Rinaldi said. “In one stroke, we are increasing services by 40%.”
The proposed timetables, which include new schedules for Penn Station service, will be the subject of three virtual information sessions on June 23, June 30 and July 7, and a virtual public meeting on July 13.
The new schedules would take effect once the LIRR begins running trains to its newly minted “Grand Central Madison” station in December. Under the proposal, the number of morning rush hour trains into Manhattan will increase from 76 to 120. During the evening peak period, the railroad will run 158 eastbound trains out of its two Manhattan terminals, as compared with the 98 it operates now.
In addition, “reverse-commute” trains bringing riders to and from jobs on Long Island during the rush hours, will more than double from the current 65 to 134, Rinaldi said.
Other improvements, the LIRR said in a statement, include more “evenly spaced trains” with fewer large gaps in service, more frequent service to Queens, more frequent service on the Ronkonkoma and West Hempstead branches, more trains in the early morning and late evening rush hours, and a 28% increase in Brooklyn service.
Matthew Cohen, president of the Long Island Association, a business group, called the service overhaul a “huge deal” for commuters, who will have greater opportunities to travel to jobs on Long Island, and on Manhattan’s East Side.
“It’s a win-win for Long Island and Long Island’s business community,” Cohen said.
But not all commuters were excited over the changes, which include 10 fewer morning rush hour trains to Penn Station. Ronkonkoma commuter Allen Wone, who works near Penn Station, said the proposed timetables mean he’ll “have to take a train earlier … to get there the same time.”
Baldwin commuter Julie Cohen said she works closer to Grand Central than to Penn, but will have “less LIRR train options morning and evening” under the proposed new timetables.
“I honestly thought it would give me a shorter commute. But ironically, it will probably be longer and more crowded based on the proposed timetable,” Cohen said.
The service redesign also does away with most direct service to and from Brooklyn, replacing it with frequent shuttle train service from a dedicated platform at Jamaica station’s south side.
The plan also would eliminate scheduled connections at Jamaica, although the LIRR, in a statement, said most customers “will find plenty of options to take them to the terminal of their choosing without the need to change trains.”
Rinaldi acknowledged that some commuters may be concerned upon no longer seeing their usual train in the new schedule, but said, overall, “there’s going to be more service, there’s going to be faster service, there’s going to be more in the way of choices.”
“So I guess I would ask that person who doesn’t see that one train there anymore to keep their powder dry and look at the schedule and see how the new way of offering service on the Long Island Rail Road could ultimately benefit them,” Rinaldi said.