MTA officials hope for the best, prepare for the worst in LIRR service plan

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

While the Metropolitan Transportation Authority did not ask for a service headache expected with Penn Station repairs, MTA officials said the MTA is ready to confront the “summer of hell.”

“We’ve become the victim of Amtrak and what they need to do in Penn Station, and the MTA decided to look at this situation and take it head on,” MTA chairman Joe Lhota said in a conference call with reporters.

Penn Station, which is operated by Amtrak, will be undergoing renovations from July 10 to Sept. 1. The construction will close three of the station’s 21 tracks, which is expected to ripple across the system and cause rush hour delays for LIRR commuters.

Many trains will carry two additional cars and a few trains will not be terminating at Penn Station. The 36 total extra cars and three new trains could accommodate the 9,600 customers expected to be affected, officials previously said.

Additionally, the plan offers 200 coach buses at eight different locations in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Ferries departing from Glen Cove and Long Island City could also take commuters to the 34th street pier and Hunter’s Point, respectively.

Lhota said that the MTA will officially be adding the additional cars to the trains over the weekend.

The LIRR will also have an extra crew and locomotive to respond to any potential train issues that normally occur.

“We will go through all of the things that we normally do to expedite the process as fast as possible,” Lhota said.

Amtrak will also be adding extra protect equipment and crews in Penn Station, Lhota added.

MTA Interim Director Ronnie Hakim, highlighting their partnership with Coach USA and Academy Bus, said that their buses have been doing dry runs to get ready for Monday.

She also said that the MTA is closely coordinating with the NYPD, local enforcement and Nassau and Suffolk counties to ensure buses can access HOV lanes.

“All the marks have  been covered, but of course we prepare, we prepare, we prepare,” Hakim said.

Officials also previously said that truck tolls will be reduced by 50 percent from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. to encourage them to travel at night instead.

They also emphasized the MTA is aggressively reaching out to their riders, with workers out at stations handing out new timetables, and that their operations center at MTA headquarters will monitoring the commuting situation live.

Still, both Hakim and Lhota acknowledged that this week will be truly be a test and the summer will not be easy.

“There’s no question,” Lhota said, adding that commuters should be flexible and they have enough train seats for a normal day.

“We know this is going to be a tough couple of months,” Hakim said, “but it is temporary.”

The MTA also recently announced that it will cut fares for LIRR riders negatively 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.

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

Currently it’s unclear how much the mitigation plan will cost.

Amtrak’s announcement to repair Penn Station came in wake of a wave of woes, including massive service disruptions after Memorial Day Weekend, signal problems on May 3 and 8 that spawned suspensions and delays and trail derailments on March 24 and April 3.

They have said that while the planned disruptions to rush-hour train service at Penn Station for renovations will hurt, the station repairs are necessary to address long-term underlying infrastructure issues.

“The paradigm of fitting vital renewal and maintenance work into limited windows so that peak period service is never impacted must change if we are to get ahead of the challenge and start toward a path to greater operational reliability,” Newsday reported Amtrak Executive Vice President Stephen Gardner as saying at a New Jersey legislature hearing.

Amtrak also said they their service will suffer too. They plan to cancel six trains running between New York and Washington D.C. and reduce Amtrak service at Penn by about 40 percent.

For more information, Hakim encouraged passengers to go to lirrsummerschedule.com and sign up for MTA service alerts.

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