Readers Write: LIRR service to Grand Central needs fine-tuning

Readers Write:  LIRR service to Grand Central needs fine-tuning


Re: your editorial  “LIRR goes off the rail once more” and news story “G.N. officials bash LIRR for service change”

There is more to the ongoing issues related to service changes for the Port Washington LIRR branch upon initiation of East Side Access service to Grand Central Madison. .

Port Washington branch riders to Penn Station face reductions in peak hour service. They are also losers when it comes to current direct off-peak and weekend 30-minute service. Those boarding a Grand Central Madison-bound train wanting to reach Penn Station will either wait another 30 minutes or change at Woodside. (This involves going up the stairs and across the mezzanine and back down the stairs to the center platform. Now wait for the next Penn Station bound train from Jamaica.)

The service dead zone between Great Neck and Port Washington is due to a single track that still remains during portions of rush hour service. There is no AM peak reverse service from Great Neck to Port Washington between 6:38 AM to 7:42 AM and 8:07 AM and 9:04 AM. There is a similar PM reverse service gap from Port Washington to Great Neck in the PM reverse peak.

This conflicts with MTA Chairman Janno Lieber’s and LIRR President Catherine Renaldi’s promise of significant service increases for reverse rush hour commuters. This is not the case for reverse peak riders traveling to Manhasset, Plandome and Port Washington. Adding stops in Queens to rush hour trains that previously ran express from Great Neck to Penn Station contradicts the MTA ans LIRR corporate party line of saving up to 40 minutes when traveling to midtown Manhattan East via East Side Access to Grand Central Madison.

Commuters face longer trips when future former rush hour express trains from Great Neck disappear or add additional Queens stops. Trains have to decelerate, stop, open and close the doors for passenger boarding, and then proceed to accelerate. This can average one to two minutes per station vs. traveling full speed past Queens stations..

What happened to the planning study promised by former LIRR President Phil Eng several years ago? It was going to look at the feasibility of double tracking between Great Neck and Port Washington.

Adding passing sidings or double tracking is the only solution for improved bi-directional service between Port Washington and Great Neck. This is actually more important than expansion of the Port Washington LIRR Yard. Even with adding more capacity to the Port Washington Yard, at some point there are no trains left to run westbound in the AM peak. Any yard expansion would also not solve the problem of bi directional service gaps. As a long time Great Neck commuter going back to the 1970’s, this has been ignored for decades. Building a second trestle over East Shore Road would afford the LIRR an opportunity to double track up to just west of the Manhasset Station.

Construction of the $40 million pocket track just east of the Great Neck station was designed to both support access to Grand Central Madison and increase overall service. There are always rush hour trains returning from Penn Station in the AM back to Great Neck for a second trip to Manhattan. This has been necessary as the Port Washington Yard eventually runs out of overnight trains in storage used for AM rush hour service. Why not continue the rush hour service model of express trains from Great Neck supplemented by local trains originating in Great Neck making local stops in Queens? No one objects to all off-peak trains making all stops in Nassau and Queens County on the Port Washington branch.

Riding the LIRR is not the only option for Great Neck residents to access midtown Manhattan. Nassau Inter County Express Bus route N21 runs frequent rush hour service to Flushing Main Street. You can transfer there to the Flushing #7 Express subway. It will arrive at Grand Central Madison in 25 minutes or Hudson Yards (adjacent to Penn Station) in 30 minutes. Total travel time averages under one hour, but the cost is only $2.75, which includes a free transfer between bus and subway.

There are hundreds of health care workers, maids, restaurant and store employees, gardeners and many other blue collar workers who can’t afford the LIRR and utilize this connection.

Larry Penner

Great Neck

(Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office. This included the review, approval and oversight for billions of dollars in grants to the MTA which funded LIRR, Metro North, NYC Transit, MTA Bus capital projects and programs along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ) .
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