LIRR service will increase dramatically, but at some stations more than others
MANHATTAN, New York (WABC) -- Full Long Island Rail Road service began Monday at Grand Central Madison.
This new service is not making all commuters too happy.
Many commuters in Port Washington will now have to transfer to get to Penn Station.
The connection from Jamaica to Atlantic Terminal is being replaced by shuttle service.
The MTA says it will "up" service by 41 percent, adding 271 additional trains per weekday.
Eyewitness News traffic reporter Heather O'Rourke tracked the changes as they went into effect Monday morning.
Derick Waller reported from Great Neck, and John Del Giorno reported live from NewsCopter 7.
For many LIRR passengers, the long-awaited change can't come soon enough.
Amy Luria is a designer from Port Washington who has business on Manhattan's East Side.
"I'm personally very excited for my business and my family," she said. "It's a welcome addition."
But while many commuters will get more service and more places to go, others will be inconvenienced by a new schedule that could double or triple their travel times.
For Jeremy Filner, also from Port Washington, it's going to be more like a nightmare, with added subway trains and long transitions to them in Grand Central Madison's cavernous new space.
Plus, he's a teacher and now has fewer choices on this line, for earlier trains heading home.
"That's adding half an hour to my evening commute, which means my evening commute's looking at 2 hours minimum every night," Filner told Eyewitness News.
The revamped schedules eliminate several morning trains to Penn Station, require more frequent transfers, add local stops on trains that currently are express, eliminate timed connections at Jamaica, and also eliminate most direct trains between Long Island and Atlantic Terminal.
"The bottom line is Atlantic Terminal is going from 116 trains a day to 155 trains a day, it's going to have more frequent service in the peak, instead of having a train every 15 to 18 minutes, it's going to have a train every 12 minutes. And we are excited about how we think the Atlantic Terminal piece of our network is going to benefit from the way we are structuring things now," said Janno Leiber, MTA Chair and CEO.
Commuters on the Port Washington and Oyster Bay branches voiced concerns about the changes during public hearings last summer, but their schedules got relatively few revisions.
In fact, in Port Washington, the much loved 38-minute express train is now gone in the evening commute.
And in its place are slightly longer express trains and some that have transfers at Bayside.
"The Oyster Bay Branch and folks know this, have got some constraints on it physically. It's got one-track territory, some other constraints," Leiber said. "So again, the goal is for everybody to get a little bit more. And I hope that over time, people will start to realize that those Mineola connections, one after another, are going to be a plus.
The MTA maintains there will be a 41% increase in service and a 51% increase in service to Mineola.
They say the schedules, the first major change in recent memory, recalibrated to accommodate post-pandemic work patterns, remain a work in progress.
The new station at Grand Central Terminal opened earlier this month for a shuttle service, but the expanded LIRR schedule brings the long-awaited station to its full potential.
Lieber said he does not "absolutely know" how many people will use Grand Central Madison, but the MTA believes roughly half of riders can now shorten their commutes by switching to the station.
"There are going to be some folks who are accustomed to certain commutes who may not change it at the outset. People are accustomed to their routines. So we don't know. But the origin and destination information suggests about half of the commuters would have a faster and more convenient commute if they went to the east side, to Grand Central."
Lieber said the MTA is bracing for negative feedback from some riders.
"Listen, nobody likes to have their routine changed and loyal Long Island Rail Road commuters have their trains, they have their people that they've traveled with, they have conductors that they know. Those patterns of behavior are deeply engrained," he said. "They are going to get a lot of trains, at all times of day, in all directions, that may have been unavailable before."
Interim LIRR President Catherine Rinaldi said MTA outreach workers will be out in force Monday.
"We are going to do our best to make the transition a smooth one. We will have a lot of people out in the system, a lot of people help navigate the new terminal," she said.
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