Readers Write: Past errors haunt East Side Access

Readers Write: Past errors haunt East Side Access

Here is some interesting information concerning the ongoing Metropolitan Transportation Authority Long Island Rail Road East Side Access to Grand Central Terminal project that you seldom hear the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Long Island Rail Road, Gov. Andrew Cuomo or U.S. State Sen.Charles Schumer ever talk about.
One significant failure in the 1990s was a future fatal flaw in the purchase of both duel mode locomotives and double-decker passenger cars.  
Those responsible for design, engineering and bid specifications to support procurement of duel mode locomotives and double decker passenger cars failed to take into consideration height clearances for the 63rd Street tunnel between Manhattan and Queens.  
This tunnel was designed to be used at a future date to provide the LIRR with a direct connection to Grand Central Terminal.  
As a result, the LIRR fleet of 23 diesel-electric and 23 duel-mode locomotives along with 134 double-decker passenger cars will not be able to utilize East Side Access for future service to Grand Central Terminal.  
Thousands of daily LIRR riders whose trips originate from diesel territory branches (including those commuting east of Huntington to Port Jefferson, east of Mineola to Oyster Bay, east of Babylon to Speonk or Montauk and east of Ronkonkoma to Greenport) will still have to change at Jamaica for those traveling to or from the future LIRR Grand Central Terminal or Atlantic Terminal Brooklyn.  
There will no longer be any direct thru service from Jamaica to Atlantic Terminal Brooklyn.  
This impacts customers on 51 peak and 84 off peak or 135 weekday trains operating between Jamaica and Brooklyn.  
They will have to either walk up the stairs, take an escalator or elevator from platform levels off of Jamaica Station tracks one, two or three to the mezzanine level.  
Next walk across the mezzanine and down the stairs, escalator or elevator to the new tracks nine or ten.  
Then they will have to wait for the next scoot service train running between Jamaica and Atlantic Terminal Brooklyn on tracks nine and ten.  
They will miss the good old days when it was a simple switch walking across the platform between tracks one and two or two and three to the desired Penn Station, Atlantic Terminal Brooklyn, Hunters Point or Long Island City bound train.  
Who knows how long the will wait will be for a connecting train.
When the Oyster Bay branch is converted to a permanent scoot shuttle service — riders will also have to first switch at Mineola.  
Travel time for thousands of LIRR riders bound for downtown Brooklyn, Wall Street, World Financial Center or World Trade Center or other destinations in downtown Manhattan via Atlantic Terminal Brooklyn will now actually have longer commutes.
Depending upon how long the wait is for a connecting train from Jamaica to Brooklyn, this could add up between five to ten minutes each way or a total of 20 minutes per day.
It is doubtful that the LIRR scoot service between Jamaica and Atlantic Terminal Brooklyn will be running with head ways every few minutes like a subway.  
Imagine how long one could be waiting to or from events at the Brooklyn Barclay Center or other off peak trains.  
Thousands of riders whose trains originated to or from Atlantic Terminal Brooklyn who once had a one seat ride will lose this benefit.  
Everyone will now have to change at Jamaica.  This will especially impact those on the Hempstead, Rockaway and other branches whose trains originate from Brooklyn.
All of this conflicts with the MTA corporate party line of over decades regarding how the ESA project will save many LIRR riders up to 40 minutes each day round trip in daily commutes.
So much for truth in advertising.
Until the 1970s, both LIRR and NJ Transit riders exiting east at Penn Station had a direct underground passageway known as the Hilton Corridor.
It was also known as the Gimbel’s passageway. This provided a simple indoor connection to the 34th Street Herald Square B,D,F & M and N,R, & Q subway, along with Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH) station complex.
It could be rebuilt in several years for $150 million versus $12 billion for MTA LIRR Eastside Access to Grand Central Terminal.
Reopening this passageway would provide improved access to east midtown Manhattan years prior to MTA LIRR Eastside Access.
It would also save significant time for those with the same destinations served by future LIRR service to Grand Central Terminal.   
One riders gain in time savings (being able to access work in the east side of midtown Manhattan via Grand Central Terminal versus Penn Station) is a corresponding loss for another rider trying to access work via Atlantic Terminal Brooklyn.  
Pity those poor riders on the Oyster Bay branch who will suffer the most.
Larry Penner
Great Neck
Larry Penner is a transportation historian and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office.

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