MIDTOWN EAST, Manhattan (WABC) -- The wait is over for many commuters, as the LIRR finally began service at Grand Central Terminal on Wednesday.
Gov. Kathy Hochul was among the first passengers of the train that pulled into Grand Central Madison at 11:07 a.m. as the East Side Access train service rolled out.
"Grand Central Madison is a game changer for New Yorkers, and I look forward to welcoming Long Island commuters to our tremendous new terminal," Hochul said. "Infrastructure is all about connections, and this project is an extraordinary step forward to better connect millions of New Yorkers with their homes, their families and their jobs."
The new service is offering 20-minute direct service between Jamaica Station and the brand new Grand Central Madison station.
The Jamaica route is the only route for now, but there are plans to add a full expansion of service soon.
If you want to give the new station a try, the MTA is honoring Penn Station tickets Wednesday at Grand Central.
The new terminal has a dazzling network of marble corridors and a dizzying series of escalators carrying riders to the platforms, 17 stories beneath the street.
From the street, most riders will travel down one escalator, then down a set of stairs through the corridors and into the concourse. Riders will then head down the longest escalator in New York.
Eyewitness News reporter NJ Burkett found out it takes a minute and 38 seconds to go from top to bottom. From there, it's down another set of stairs to the platforms.
For Long Islanders who work on the East Side, it's literally life-changing.
"Not having to do it, back and forth from the West Side to the East Side and reverse in the afternoon? It's a huge time-saving thing for us," a Long Island resident said.
There are enough new tracks and platforms to handle up to 24 trains per hour.
Trains will operate between 6:15 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on weekdays and from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends.
Trains are running every 30 minutes in both directions during weekday midday periods as well as on weekends, and once per hour during peak periods - arriving in Grand Central between 6:30 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. and departing between 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
The $12 billion project has been 15 years in the making, but service to Grand Central Madison was postponed due to delays in testing.
Grand Central Madison is the first new major downtown rail terminal in the United States in 67 years and the first expansion of the LIRR in 112 years, since service began to Penn Station on September 8, 1910.