MTA chairman Janno Lieber said at the agency's board monthly...

MTA chairman Janno Lieber said at the agency's board monthly meeting Wednesday that “we’re not going to make apologies for increasing service on the Long Island Rail Road by more than 40% in the inbound and 50% in the outbound. We’re just not going to apologize for it.” He was referring to the overall increase in the number of LIRR rush-hour trains. Credit: Jeff Bachner

The head of the MTA on Wednesday fought back against criticism from Long Island Rail Road riders who say the forthcoming schedule changes related to East Side Access will complicate and lengthen their daily commutes.

“We’re not going to make apologies for increasing service on the Long Island Rail Road by more than 40% in the inbound and 50% in the outbound. We’re just not going to apologize for it,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Janno Lieber said at the MTA Board’s monthly meeting Wednesday, referring to the overall increase in the number of LIRR rush-hour trains. “We think this is great and, respectfully, would ask folks to give it a chance.”

Public speakers at the Manhattan meeting blasted the recently released new timetables, which would take effect upon the completion of the $11.2 billion East Side Access project. The project aims to link the LIRR to a second Manhattan terminal, dubbed Grand Central Madison, by December.

While the project aims to shorten the commutes of those working on Manhattan’s East Side, other LIRR customers said the proposed changes could make their rides to work and home significantly longer.

That’s especially the case for Brooklyn riders, as the LIRR is replacing most direct service between Long Island and Atlantic Terminal with shuttle train service from a dedicated track on the south end of Jamaica Station.

Passengers using the new service will have to go up to and across Jamaica’s elevated pedestrian walkway to make the transfer. Andrew Sparberg, a former LIRR manager and train historian, said the new system is “not a good idea.”

“Compared to today’s cross-platform transfers, the new set up is physically cumbersome and more time-consuming,” said Sparberg, who noted that he’s been riding the LIRR for 44 years. “The up-and-over movement is a burden to senior citizens. And I am one of them.”

Brooklyn rider Jason Rabinowitz said his occasional weekend excursions from Atlantic Terminal to Far Rockaway will go from taking 37 minutes to 1 hour and 2 minutes under the change — “an unreasonable increase.”

“This trip, and many others, is now longer by transit than it is by driving,” Rabinowitz said. “I urge the board to have the Long Island Rail Road revise the proposed schedule and release a schedule that does not punish Brooklyn riders at the expense of those now going to Manhattan.”

Lieber said the criticisms don’t take into account the many benefits of East Side Access, including the potential boon to Long Island’s economy by expanding “reverse commute” trains bringing people to and from jobs on Long Island. He said even Brooklyn riders will benefit from more frequent trains to and from Jamaica than exist now.

LIRR interim president Catherine Rinaldi also noted that the new schedules will significantly increase service to underserved communities in New York City. But those increases come at the expense of some Long Island commuters, because the added stops will lengthen their travel time.

LIRR riders can sound off on the changes at a virtual public hearing on July 13.

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