Oyster Bay LIRR riders say new Grand Central Madison schedules make commutes worse
Oyster Bay residents and elected officials are speaking out against the overhauled Long Island Rail Road schedules that take effect Monday, arguing that the $11.1 billion effort to build Grand Central Madison will worsen their commutes.
Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) and Glen Cove City Council member Danielle Fugazy Scagliola on Tuesday sent a letter to Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Janno Lieber telling him that, while the MTA’s East Side Access megaproject “is a game changer for many, the riders on the Oyster Bay line are being disadvantaged.”
One of the largest schedule overhauls in the LIRR’s history is set to take effect Monday, as the railroad commences full service to its second Manhattan terminal, Grand Central Madison. While the MTA has said LIRR service will increase by 41% overall, the lawmakers, in their letter, pointed out that “trips on the Oyster Bay line are actually getting longer in most cases and less trains are headed east bound during rush hour” and that “there is more time between trains.”
“As taxpayers, Oyster Bay riders helped shoulder a part of the financial burden for the expansion, yet our service is getting worse,” Lavine and Figazy Scagliola said.
The letter follows public complaints by Oyster Bay commuters about the upcoming service changes, which could add several minutes to riders’ trips. An online petition to “improve service on the Oyster Bay line” has already gotten more than 1,500 signatures.
Although some LIRR branches will see service boosted by as much as 50%, with as many as 39 trains added each day, the Oyster Bay Branch will have a more modest service increase of 10%, going from 28 trains each weekday to 32. Only one morning train will go directly to Penn Station, with all other passengers having to transfer to get there. During off-peak hours, trains will continue to run once every two hours.
The planned schedule changes also replace most scheduled service between Long Island and Brooklyn with a shuttle train at Jamaica, and will do away with timed transfers, meaning trains will not wait for connections.
"If riders miss that connection, they are stuck at Jamaica for an hour, and an empty train heads out to Oyster Bay," branch commuter Ian Siegel said. "It seems very, very wasteful and silly."
In addressing the limited improvements, Lieber on Thursday cited “physical constraints” on the Oyster Bay Branch, much of which is a single, non-electrified track. Before COVID-19, only about 6,000 of the LIRR’s 300,000 daily riders traveled on the Oyster Bay Branch.
Lieber pointed out that at the Mineola station — a key transfer point for Oyster Bay riders — service will increase by 51%. MTA officials have also said they will study travel patterns and make service adjustments as necessary, if possible.
“The goal is for everybody to get a little bit more, and I hope that, over time, people will start to recognize that,” Lieber said.