The Long Island Rail Road rolled out a series of schedule changes Monday intended to address the overcrowding and confusion that dominated the first week of service at the new, and long-awaited, Grand Central Madison station.
The station had been touted as the antidote to those scourges, and yet many LIRR riders say the very infrastructure intended to help them has made their commutes more chaotic.
The railroad acknowledged the bumpy first week and said some growing pains are expected in connection with the opening of the $11 billion station — and the historic expansion of rail lines to Grand Central Terminal.
Specifically, LIRR and Metro-North President Cathy Rinaldi blamed the overcrowding on new schedules that shortened trains bound for Penn Station and Brooklyn. Rinaldi admitted her team reduced the number of cars on certain trains based on data analysis. Transit officials thought many of those people would want to ride to Grand Central instead.
Monday’s changes (scroll down for a complete breakdown) are meant to adapt quickly to the commute reality. Gov. Kathy Hochul also directed the MTA to modify service to improve the commuter experience. She wants more rush hour service to Brooklyn, more cars on trains serving Penn Station to alleviate overcrowding — and more cars on all trains that exceeded capacity last week.
The Democratic governor also called for enhanced communication and a more comprehensive customer service experience at the Jamaica station, where passengers described an epic nightmare — one involving three track changes and people racing up and down escalators to get to where they needed to be — last Thursday night.
Hochul also ordered the MTA to keep monitoring the situation in real-time to determine whether other schedule changes might be needed. Rinaldi says that’s always been the plan. She said data shows LIRR riders saved a combined total of 38,051 commute hours on the East Side compared with travel time using Penn Station during peak periods last week despite the debut headaches and the agency will continue to assess capacity and ridership going forward.
Passengers described crowded platforms and trains, as well as track confusion as they try to transfer, as the LIRR’s growing pains with the opening of Grand Central Madison continued. NBC New York Ida Siegal reports.
“We had said we were looking at every train and every line to assess where customers were not getting the level of service they and we expect,” Rinaldi said Sunday. “These changes are steps toward ensuring a better experience going forward while continuing to run more overall service to more NYC terminals than the LIRR ever has before.” We will continue to monitor ridership trends and loading conditions and make adjustments as necessary.”
LIRR Changes to Know
The LIRR is increasing rush hour service to Brooklyn by adding an extra trainset Monday and a second extra trainset on Tuesday, reducing time between trains on the Jamaica-Brooklyn shuttle Monday to an average of 8-9 minutes in peak hours, with even more frequent service starting Tuesday, Hochul says.
It is also lengthening 17 trains serving Penn Station, adding cars to every train that exceeded capacity. A total of 32 trains have added cars starting Monday, March 6, including four trains that were already lengthened last week and 11 peak trains that result from the targeted increases. Check the app to view new Jamaica – Atlantic Terminal options.
MORNING PEAK TRAINS LENGTHENED LAST WEEK
- The 6:26 a.m. train from Far Rockaway to Penn Station
- The 7:07 a.m. train from Jamaica to Atlantic Terminal
- The 7:15 a.m. train from Babylon to Grand Central Madison
- The 7:28 a.m. train from Ronkonkoma to Penn Station
Romney Smith reports on commuter frustrations about the new Grand Central Madison station.
PEAK TRAINS WITH ADDED CARS STARTING MONDAY
- The 5:29 a.m. train from Port Washington to Penn Station
- The 5:42 a.m. train from Ronkonkoma to Grand Central Madison
- The 5:49 a.m. train from Long Beach to Grand Central Madison
- The 5:54 a.m. train from Huntington to Grand Central Madison
- The 6:15 a.m. train from Wantagh to Penn Station
- The 6:31 a.m. train from Babylon to Penn Station
- The 6:54 a.m. train from Wantagh to Penn Station
- The 7:19 a.m. train from Farmingdale to Penn Station
- The 7:28 a.m. train from Ronkonkoma to Penn Station
- The 7:31 a.m. train from Babylon to Penn Station
- The 7:54 a.m. train from Port Washington to Penn Station
- The 8:20 a.m. train from Little Neck to Penn Station
- The 8:25 a.m. train from Ronkonkoma to Penn Station
- The 8:31 a.m. train from Babylon to Penn Station
- The 3:23 p.m. train from Penn Station to Babylon
- The 3:38 p.m. train from Penn Station to Babylon
- The 3:48 p.m. train from Penn Station to Long Beach
- The 4:01 p.m. train from Penn Station to Ronkonkoma
- The 4:10 p.m. train from Penn Station to Babylon
- The 4:37 p.m. train from Penn Station to Wantagh
- The 5:07 p.m. train from Penn Station to Port Washington
- The 5:16 p.m. train from Penn Station to Babylon
- The 5.19 p.m. train from Penn Station to Wantagh
- The 5:52 p.m. train from Penn Station to Port Washington
- The 6:03 p.m. train from Grand Central Madison to Hempstead
- The 6:57 p.m. from Penn Station to Babylon
- The 7:04 p.m. train from Grand Central Madison to Huntington
- The 7:35 p.m. from Penn Station to Port Washington
System-wide service on the first weekend day under the new schedules saw a consistent on-time performance of 97.85%, the MTA said. That’s while operating 697 trains, 28% more than under previous timetables. The prior Saturday under the old schedule, on-time performance was 97.98% with 544 trains operating, according to the railroad.