Brooklyn riders not feeling the love from new LIRR schedules

An LIRR train at Atlantic Terminal on Feb. 27, 2023.
Photo by Ben Brachfeld

The arrival of full Long Island Rail Road service at Grand Central Madison on Monday means a whole new schedule for riders to get used to — and those traveling to-and-from Brooklyn say they’re not feeling the love.

While the Metropolitan Transportation Authority touts 30% more weekday trains at Atlantic Terminal under the new schedules, almost all Brooklyn service is now operating as a shuttle, requiring riders to transfer at Jamaica. Those from Long Island who had gotten used to a one-seat ride to Kings County say they’re not pleased.

“It’s certainly a lot different, and a little confusing,” said Ed Friedman, a resident of Merrick, Nassau County who arrived at Atlantic Terminal at 10 a.m. on Feb. 27. “Now there are no more direct trains here, so you have to change to another track all the way at the other end of the Jamaica station. So it’s very difficult, but it takes some getting used to.”

The long-awaited full opening of Grand Central Madison brings with it a 40% increase in service capacity on the LIRR, now totaling 936 trains including 296 into Grand Central, MTA officials have boasted. 

The MTA says that service on the Brooklyn Branch is increasing, with 12-minute peak headways and 20-minute intervals during off-peak hours and weekends. All Brooklyn Branch trains will make stops at Nostrand Avenue and East New York, which the agency says increases service and reliability for commuters from those stops.

Nonetheless, those commuting from out east into Brooklyn say the transfer at Jamaica is cumbersome.

“It was okay today but it’s gonna change drastically because now I can’t take a direct train in from where I live,” said Jermaine, a Farmingdale, Nassau County resident who declined to provide his last name, en route to work in Boerum Hill. Jermaine said that the change feels “not too good,” but he’ll adjust to his new reality.

Maxine Campbell, a resident of St. Albans, Queens, was also not pleased with the new Brooklyn service.

“They changed my train from 9:22 to 9:08 or 9:34,” Campbell told amNewYork Metro. “If I get there at 9:34, then I get to work too late. But 9:08 gets me there too early.”

Campbell missed her usual subway connection to the 2 train at Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center after ending up at the back of her LIRR train, instead of the front as had previously been the norm, making her late to work. She also said she expects she’ll get used to it, whether she wants to or not.

“I guess I don’t have a choice,” said Campbell. “I guess you have to get accustomed to it.”

Asked about the gripes of Brooklyn riders after Grand Central Madison’s opening soiree on Sunday, MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber told amNewYork Metro that even without direct service through to Brooklyn, Long Island commuters still benefit from a massive influx of trains to transfer to at Jamaica.

“You’re getting more trains, and you have so much more service, so many more options thanks to the incredible volume of trains that’ll be passing through Jamaica,” Lieber said following a ride from Grand Central to Jamaica with Gov. Kathy Hochul and Senator Chuck Schumer. “New Yorkers know how to switch trains, they just need some time to get accommodated to the new arrangement. I’m very optimistic.”

A few Brooklyn trains per day out of Atlantic Terminal will still provide service east of Jamaica, en route to Freeport, Hempstead, or West Hempstead.

Lieber has frequently touted the benefits he expects for reverse-commuters — those traveling from the city to Long Island during the morning rush, and vice versa in the evening — under the new service regime.

“There are more trains to and from Brooklyn, especially reverse commuting,” Lieber said at Jamaica Terminal. “So it used to be that people couldn’t come from Brooklyn and go for great jobs that are available in Long Island. That’s changing now.”

But the sentiment is not universal. Bruce Leeds, a 60-year-old retiree from Flatbush, was heading to Long Beach, Nassau County from Atlantic Terminal Monday morning, and said it’s “absurd” that a trip to see his pals out on the barrier island now requires either a schlep to Grand Central or Penn, or a transfer at Jamaica.

“It’s gonna add more time to service, everything is gonna be messed up,” said Leeds. “It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen in my life. They’re messing us up. Who’s gonna get messed up in this whole thing, but us here in Brooklyn.”

Overall rush hour service on the Long Beach Branch, which now terminates at either Grand Central or Penn Station, increases under the new schedules from 13 to 23 per day.

LIRR riders can learn more about changes to their train schedules at https://new.mta.info/agency/long-island-rail-road/lirr-to-grand-central/branch-service