New York City Comptroller and mayoral candidate Scott Stringer’s “The NYC in 6” includes promises to reduce the cost for anyone boarding a Long Island or Metro North Rail Road train at any of the 41 stations within the city. The cost will the same as a Metro card or OMNY (One Metro New York) card.
How will this affect pre-COVID-19, current and post COVID-19 Port Washington branch LIRR riders? Stringer failed to provide any details to explain the capital and operating costs, funding sources or implementation time for this proposal.
Thousands of current Queens LIRR commuters currently pay a premium single, weekly or monthly price for a ticket. If you also reduce their fares to equal the Metro Card or OMNY, the MTA will lose millions in annual revenue. How does Stringer propose to fund this new deficit?
LIRR Port Washington branch pre COVID-19 riders from Great Neck, Manhasset, Plandome and Port Washington could be joined by several thousand new neighbors boarding at Little Neck, Douglaston, Bayside, Auburndale, Broadway, Murray Hill, Flushing and Woodside. The No. 7 NYC Transit subway rush hour express requires 25 minutes from boarding at Main Street Flushing to Grand Central Terminal or 30 minutes to Hudson Yards. Current LIRR service to Penn Station requires 17 minutes.
Initiation of LIRR service for East Side Access to Grand Central Terminal should take 20 minutes. How many of the 66,000 Flushing No. 7 subway riders, if offered the same price on the LIRR under Stringer’s plan, would switch to save time? How many new riders will attempt to board trains at Woodside Station for trips to Penn Station or East Side Access to Grand Central Terminal starting in December 2022?
When service disruptions take place on the No. 7 line, Metro Cards are cross honored by the LIRR. These NYC Transit subway riders are allowed to ride trains on the LIRR Port Washington branch. How would this impact the ability of LIRR to accommodate thousands of No. 7 subway riders?
How will service on the Port Washington branch be affected by construction of the future new LaGuardia Air Train Station? You will need six minutes travel time on the Air Train between LaGuardia Airport to reach LIRR and NYC Transit Shea Stadium stations. Travel time on the LIRR from Shea Stadium to Penn Station or future East Side Access to Grand Central Terminal is 17 minutes. Factor in up to seven minutes to wait for a connection at Shea Stadium for the LIRR or No. 7 subway.
The new LIRR Grand Central Terminal stop will consist of four platforms and eight tracks, which will be many stories below ground. How much time will be required before reaching street level? The No. 7 subway ride to Manhattan stations is a minimum of 25 minutes via express (only runs inbound a.m. and outbound p.m. with no other service except for major events at Shea Stadium) and 30 minutes on the local.
The LIRR will require six trains hourly in each direction to support 10-minute headways. This is necessary to meet the promised 30-minute travel time from LaGuardia Airport by Governor Cuomo, MTA Chairman Pat Foye and Port Authority Chairman Rick Cotton to midtown Manhattan. Even with implementation of Positive Train Control, it may not be possible for the Port Washington LIRR branch to accommodate these additional trains during rush hour.
When problems occur in the East River tunnels or other locations, how often do we deal with canceled or overcrowded standing room only combined trains? Off-peak service between rush hours (temporarily suspended due to COVID-19 ridership losses), evenings and weekends on the Port Washington LIRR Branch service is once every 30 minutes. The LIRR would have to add four additional trains hourly to meet promised 30-minute travel time.
With a 25 percent current reduction in overall LIRR service, it will continue to be a challenge to maintain social distancing during our ongoing COVID-19 crises. In future years, the benefits for Port Washington branch LIRR riders not having to deal with periodic problems at Jamaica Station may be offset by these other developments.
(Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office.)