To everything, there is a season.
The repair work on the region’s train tracks, though, may be every season.
Come January, Amtrak is planning to rebuild three Long Island Rail Road tracks at Penn Station. While only one track will be out of service at any given time, the work will again mean service changes, potentially diverted trains and inconveniences for passengers.
Transportation officials are assuring LIRR commuters that the next round of repairs shouldn’t lead to a “winter of hell” because this is a less significant project compared with the emergency repairs Amtrak did over the summer.
Still, Amtrak and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority should approach it with the same intensity as their summer project.
MTA officials must work with Amtrak executives on new schedules and plans, and notify the public as soon as possible about the arrangements. NJ Transit and Amtrak already have announced their service changes. So far, the MTA has only said that some trains might be diverted to Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn or Hunterspoint Avenue in Queens. Giving LIRR commuters time to prepare is key.
And once again, good communication is vital. The summer plans worked in part because the MTA provided ample information and consistent updates to riders, through announcements at each station, a website dashboard that tracked the work’s progress and social media. That same full strategy is needed this winter, as well.
Clearly, this isn’t the end of the repairs and renewal work needed at Penn Station and beyond. And fixing or replacing track before emergencies happen is the right strategy — even if means inconveniencing riders. But Amtrak and the MTA must continue to coordinate and inform, so this doesn’t become the winter of our discontent.