New Port LIRR schedule the same despite calls for change

New Port LIRR schedule the same despite calls for change
Commuters from Port Washington arriving at Penn Station the morning of April 10. (Photo by Cameryn Oakes)

The Long Island Rail Road implemented a new timetable schedule Monday. Despite pushback from riders along the Port Washington Branch and demands for changes, the timetable for this branch includes no substantial differences.

The LIRR implemented a new timetable Feb. 27 that included service to Grand Central Madison. This additional service meant trains are now split between Grand Central and Penn Station, in turn greatly reducing the number of trains going to Penn Station that are deferred to Grand Central instead.

For many Penn Station commuters, this change is detrimental to their schedules.

This includes local commuter activist and Penn Station commuter Ariana Parasco, who said the new schedule prevents her from being able to arrive at work by 9 a.m. without having to leave her home an hour earlier than she used to. She said that is impossible for her to balance child care.

A new timetable is now running from May 22-Sept. 4  for the summer. But all train departures and arrivals along the Port Washington branch have stayed nearly the same.

The differences between train arrivals and departures is a matter of minutes, some arriving sooner and others later.

This fails to address the real problems of the schedule, Port Washington resident and commuter activist Ian Rasmussen said. The real changes needed to alleviate these issues,  are much more difficult to implement, he said.

Rasmussen, a Penn Station commuter, said he has found the trains he commutes on are much busier than those running to and from Grand Central around similar times.

To address this, the MTA has added additional cars to certain trains, including the 5:52 p.m. train out of Penn Station. But Rasmussen compared this to buying a bigger belt when you gain weight: it is not actually addressing the issue at the source.

“The number of people who they thought were going to go to Grand Central instead of Penn Station is way off,” Rasmussen said. “It’s very difficult to change that.

Despite the difference in ridership, trains do not reflect this, according to Rasmussen.

During a.m. peak travel times, nine trains run to Penn Station and six go to Grand Central Madison. This equates to a 60-40 split of trains running to Penn and Grand Central.

During p.m. peak travel times, trains are equally traveling from Penn Station and Grand Central with 10 each.

“There’s this massive imbalance in terms of the demand vs. the service,” Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen said the 5:52 p.m. train out of Penn is so crowded that people stand in the aisles and tickets are not collected. In comparison, he said the train that leaves Grand Central at 6:08 does not reach the same ridership level.

In screenshots provided by Rasmussen from the MTA Train Time app, which provides information on the number of riders on each train, on May 3 approximately 939 riders left Penn Station at 5:52 p.m. and 507 commuters left Grand Central at 6:08 p.m.

The Penn Station train had more than 40% of the cars at over 81% capacity, while none of the Grand Central train cars exceeded 81%.

Rasmussen said the way to alleviate the issues would be to reroute some trains from Grand Central that have low ridership to Penn Station.

Another issue Rasmussen identified with the schedule is the large gap of time between the 5:07 p.m. train and the 5:52 p.m. train that leave Penn Station and arrive in Port Washington.

Th 45-minute wait is at a prime time for Port Washington commuters leaving work and leads to crowded trains.

Rasmussen said his wife, who also commutes in and out of Penn Station, typically catches the 5:02 train but at times has missed it by a matter of minutes due to subway delays. In those instances, she has to wait, sitting on the terminal floor, until the next train comes in 45 minutes.

Parasco echoed this concern and said that the most immediate need for Penn Station commuters is re-establishing half-hourly service during the peak travel times.

While these are solutions Rasmussen and Parasco have proposed, nothing of the like has been implemented.

Parasco said she is not surprised by the lack of changes and said she has seen too much apathy on the part of community members who are affected but not acting upon their frustrations.

“My message to all of our communities from the beginning is ‘We have to make noise, we have to be loud, we have to be active on social media, we need to be persistent,’” Parasco said. “I’ve found that the community at large is apt to complain but not really follow through with meaningful action.”

In the meantime, Rasmussen and Parasco, alongside government officials and other local commuter activists, are working to draft a letter to the Long Island Rail Road to share the community’s top concerns with the train schedules.

But Parasco said that she and Rasmussen can’t do it on their own and need the community to step up to help them in this fight that involves much more than just them.

“Without the community, we can’t actually effect change,” Parasco said.

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