MTA releases draft LIRR schedules for Grand Central Madison, boosting weekday service by 41%

LIRR Grand Central
The first-ever LIRR passenger test train arrived at Grand Central on Oct. 31, 2021.
File photo by Kevin Duggan

Long Island Rail Road commuters will get a big boost in train service once the MTA opens a new long-awaited terminal below Grand Central at the end of the year, according to new schedules the transit agency released Thursday, June 2.

The draft timetables by Metropolitan Transportation Authority are slated to come into effect once the new station — recently renamed from East Side Access to “Grand Central Madison” by Governor Kathy Hochul — opens for service in December.

The proposed schedules show a detailed breakdown of planned changes for the LIRR, which officials said will be largest growth in service in the 188-year-old railroad’s history.

“It is no exaggeration to say that there is no railroad or public transportation system in America that is getting bigger service increases than the LIRR will be getting in a few short months,” said Catherine Rinaldi, Interim President of the LIRR and President of Metro-North Railroad, in a statement June 2.

The MTA plans to increase weekday service by 41% adding 274 trains to a total of 939 daily Monday through Friday.

Morning rush service from Long Island to Manhattan will grow by 58% to 120 trains from currently 76. Afternoon peak will go up by 62% from 98 to 158. 

Penn Station will lose 10 trains in the morning, but get three more in the afternoon.

Frequency between Jamaica, Queens, and Manhattan is increasing to levels of service comparable to some subway lines, with trains running every 12 minutes during the morning peak and every 20 minutes during off-peak hours.

Overall, Brooklyn LIRR service, which takes up most of that section, will go up 28%.

The MTA’s $5 flat fare tickets on its two commuter railroads for trips within city limits — the CityTicket for both systems during off-peak hours and the Atlantic Ticket for the LIRR in Brooklyn and Queens at all times — have “soared” in popularity amid a recent agency push for expanded discounts on public transit. 

The reverse commute will also get more trips, with the LIRR adding 53 trains during rush hours heading out of the city and on to Long Island, a 65% bump.

The new $11.13 billion train hall underneath Grand Central Terminal will have eight new tracks, which, along with added capacity the MTA is building out on Long Island, allowed for the agency to lift the cap on train service, Rinaldi said.

“Constraints that have long put a ceiling on how much service the LIRR can operate are falling away as we bring online two long-awaited megaprojects: the opening of LIRR service to Grand Central Madison, and LIRR Main Line Third Track,” she said.

The project deep below Manhattan’s East Side took more than two decades to complete and officials said it will shave about 40 minutes off commutes roundtrip between Long Island and the Big Apple.

The LIRR will hold three virtual information sessions starting on June 23, followed by a virtual public feedback session on July 13. For more information visit the project’s website at new.mta.info/grandcentralmadison.

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