A not so hellish ‘Summer of Hell’ so far for LIRR commuters

Janelle Clausen
Penn Station is seen in Manhattan. (Photo by Rickyrab via Wikimedia Commons)

MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said this week would be a test for LIRR commuters.

“There’s no question,” he said.

Construction at Penn Station, meant to address long-term negligence of its infrastructure, was expected to disrupt rush hour commutes. Some politicians like Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who dubbed the emergency repair dates of July 10 to Sept. 1 as the “summer of hell,” and others were expecting the worst.

But Monday seemed to receive passing grades in comparison with the last few months, which were highlighted by signal problems, train derailments, suspensions and delays. Many passengers reported arriving on time despite renovations that closed three tracks at Penn Station and several train reroutings.

“They were anxious, they were concerned, and they just wanted to get there on time,” county Legislator Laura Curran, a Democratic candidate for county executive, who rode from Hicksville to Jamaica, said of commuters she spoke with.

“It was actually not terrible,” Curran added with a laugh, speaking about the commute.

Rita Khabbaza, a Great Neck resident and commuter, said that while her 9:22 a.m. train made it on time, it may be too early to judge how hellish the summer could be.

“It’s only the first day,” Khabbaza said over Facebook messenger. “Keeping [my] fingers crossed.”

In response to early concerns, the MTA assembled a multifaceted plan featuring buses, ferries and extra train cars.

A map of buses the MTA is offering across Nassau and Suffolk Counties. (Photo courtesy of the MTA)

About 12 trains were canceled and 10 trains added on the LIRR, according to MTA schedule changes.

In total, the MTA added 36 train cars to accommodate the roughly 9,600 customers they expected to be affected. There were also 200 coach buses added at eight  locations like North Hempstead Beach Park at 175 West Shore Road in Port Washington.

The MTA had also announced that it would cut fares for LIRR riders affected by the Penn Station construction. The LIRR will offer a 25 percent fare reduction for passengers traveling to Hunterspoint Avenue and Atlantic Terminal.

This also includes trains diverted to these stations from Penn, as well as customers traveling to Long Island City, Nostrand Avenue and East New York.

A map of the subway system. (Photo courtesy of the MTA)

The reductions, based on how far passengers travel, will last for the duration of Amtrak repair work. LIRR riders will also get free transfers on the subways at Atlantic Terminal and Hunterspoint Avenue.

Alison Kohler, a commuter who previously said the subways might be more difficult, got to work at around her usual time. Overall, she said navigating Atlantic proved to be a “nonissue.”

“Got a free transfer to subway, and people were chatty with one another to commiserate and help out,” Kohler said over email. “One woman saw the metro card on the back of my ticket and reminded me we don’t have to pay for the transfer (even though I had it out to show my LIRR ticket).”

Additionally, the MTA offered ferries at Glen Cove to take commuters to the 34th Street Pier and Wall Street. The morning ferries departed at 6:10 a.m. and 6:35 a.m. Later the ferries going back to Glen Cove from Wall Street and 34th Street would leave at 4:30 p.m. and 6:20 p.m., respectively.

A map of ferries and where they will take commuters. (Photo courtesy of the MTA)

But not many people may have taken them. Cynthia Kouril, who went down to the terminal to get information about taking a ferry to a meeting in the city, said that there was an abundance of staff but a shortage of passengers.

“The place was packed with MTA, cops, harbor patrol and other workers there to answer questions, direct traffic, etc. This level of staffing is not sustainable, and I assume it will peter out in a few days,” Kouril said over Facebook.

“The press and politicians may have outnumbered the passengers,” she added.

Residents of the North Shore were also greeted by many changes to schedules and the trains themselves.

The Long Island Rail Road has several branches in addition to its main line, as pictured above. The Port Washington, Oyster Bay, Hempstead and Port Jefferson lines, utilized by many commuters in The Island Now’s coverage area, were each affected to different degrees. (Photo courtesy of the MTA)

The Port Washington line, which includes stops in Port Washington, Plandome, Manhasset and Great Neck, saw an addition of a 5:22 a.m. train that reaches Penn at 6:30 a.m. However, the 8:08 a.m. express train from Great Neck will not operate.

An alternative is the 8:24 a.m. Great Neck train, with stops in Little Neck, Douglaston and Woodside, before arriving at Penn at 8:59 a.m.

For the evening, Port Washington added an off-peak train that departs at 3:40 p.m. and arrives at Great Neck at 4:15. The 4:46 p.m. train originating in Penn Station and due at Penn at 5:23 p.n. will now originate at Hunterspoint Avenue.

A Long Island Rail Road train pulls into the Great Neck station. (Photo by Adam Lidgett)

The 5:26 p.m. train from Penn, normally due at Port Washington at 6:04 p.m., was canceled. Commuters instead are encouraged to take a 5:29 train that stops at Manhasset, Plandome, Great Neck and Port Washington.

The 4:22 and 4:58 p.m. trains from Penn to Port Washington added two extra train cars. The 4:25, 5:29, and 5:56 p.m. trains due at Great Neck also have two more cars.

Meanwhile, along the Port Jefferson branch, the 6:25 a.m. train from Hicksville will be rerouted to Atlantic Terminal.

The later 5:06 p.m. train from Penn, stopping at Syosset and terminating at Huntington at 6:07 p.m., will not be running. Customers could still take the 5:17 train from Penn, which made all the stops of the canceled train. The 3:24 p.m. train from Penn due at Huntington at 4:33 p.m., meanwhile, will have two extra cars.

With the Hempstead branch, which begins at Hempstead and meets with the Port Jefferson line at Floral Park near New Hyde Park, commuters can expect an extra train at 5:33 a.m. that will arrive at Atlantic Terminal around 6:23 a.m.

Four trains for the evening rush hour are also being rerouted. Two will originate at Jamaica and Atlantic Terminal, respectively.

A LIRR train pulls into the East Williston station on the Oyster Bay branch. (Photo by Noah Manskar)

The Oyster Bay branch, which includes stops in Roslyn, Albertson and Mineola, did not experience any major scheduling changes.

Ronkonkoma’s branch, which runs into the Port Jefferson line at Hicksville, will have an extra early morning train in Farmingdale at 4:53 a.m. that will arrive at Penn Station at 6 a.m. The 6:54 a.m. train from Central Islip, normally due at Penn around 8:06 a.m., will end its run at Jamaica at 7:44 a.m. Customers there can catch Penn-bound trains at 7:53 a.m. and 8:01 a.m.

The 6 a.m. train from Farmingdale due at Penn at 6:50 a.m. and the 4:54 p.m. train from Penn to Farmingdale, which goes through Floral Park, Mineola and New Hyde Park, will have two extra cars.

For more information on how your commute can be affected, go to lirrsummerschedule.com.

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