LIRR lengthens trains after overcrowding complaints under service overhaul
Following a flood of complaints from riders since the Long Island Rail Road overhauled its new service plan, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority added cars to some trains to alleviate concerns about overcrowding and sought to assure riders they were listening.
LIRR interim president Catherine Rinaldi said the railroad has “already started to lengthen our busiest trains and will continue to monitor ridership patterns under the new schedule to see what future adjustments may be necessary.”
“We are looking at passenger loading, we’re looking at frequency of service, we’re looking at who is taking what train,” Rinaldi said in a statement. “This is not fixed in stone. We’ll be adjusting and adapting as we go forward.”
Although the railroad’s newly bolstered capacity allowed it to add 271 trains to its schedule, the changes have also inconvenienced many riders, especially those not headed to Grand Central. The railroad said about 71% of Manhattan-bound commuters are still using Penn Station.
The new service shortened trains by several cars, removed some trains from the schedule and requires Brooklyn riders to transfer to a shuttle train at Jamaica. The changes have contributed to severe crowding on some trains and station platforms, including at Jamaica, according to riders.
On Thursday morning Rinaldi, MTA chairman and CEO Janno Lieber and other transit agency leaders visited the railroad’s control center at Jamaica station. In a statement, the MTA said they “observed operations in real-time, directing their attention to travel patterns such as train capacity, dwell times at stations and other operational intricacies involved in running 936 daily trains, the highest number of any commuter railroad in the country.”
Hewlett commuter Warren Prosky spotted Lieber at the station and took the opportunity to air his grievances to the MTA chief about the new service to Brooklyn, where he runs a taxi company.
"I said, 'I operate a business in Brooklyn, and my people are very unhappy.' He said, 'I hear you,'" Prosky said of his exchange with Lieber.
“He said, ‘I know we have a lot to fix and tweak, and we’re working on it,'” said Prosky, who described Lieber as “very polite.”
The 700,000 square-foot Grand Central Madison station fully opened Monday, after decades of planning and construction, and $11.1 billion in costs. The new station has received positive reviews from commuters traveling to and from Manhattan’s East Side, but has dealt with its own issues, including malfunctioning escalators, a leaking ceiling, and a signal problem that caused trains to be diverted to Penn Station Tuesday morning.
The railroad carried 60,652 Wednesday morning — the most of any rush hour so far this week, LIRR officials said. That's up from 47,413 when the railroad launched full service to Grand Central on Monday morning. As of Wednesday afternoon, 59,401 passengers have taken a peak train to or from the new station, according to the railroad.