There must be something in the water out on Long Island that makes its politicians put forth some crazy ideas. A few days after one group of Long Island State Senators proposed a further repeal of the MTA payroll tax, another is protesting what is, in essence, better commuter rail service for New Yorkers from both the Island and Westchester.
The story goes a little something like this: On and off for the last decade or so, the MTA has toyed with a Penn Station Access Study that discusses how best to bring Metro-North trains into Penn Station. In November, thanks to a push from Bronx politicians, the authority announced that it is engaged in a Federal Environmental Assessment that is exploring the impact such a routing would have. The assessment will be finished by the end of 2013, and at that point, the MTA will determine how best to proceed with this project.
Meanwhile, a group of Long Island Senators is having what can charitably be described as a freak-out. They are already calling upon the MTA to reject Metro-North service to Penn Station, and their complaints seem utterly short-sighted. “To make room for the new Metro-North Trains, the LIRR could be forced to cut the number of trains it runs into Penn Station,” Kemp Hannon, a Republican from Nassau County, said. “The LIRR is already sharing ingress into Penn Station, and any reduction of service could have a devastating impact on commuters and other travelers. With only seven of Penn Station’s existing 21 tracks being allotted to the LIRR, any reductions would seriously impair LIRR operations and affect all LIRR riders.”
The Senators, as Newsday reports, sent a letter to MTA Chairman Joe Lhota expressing their displeasure with the move. They don’t want to see a reduction in LIRR service to Penn Station, but they seem to be ignoring both common sense and commuting patterns.
Right now, as we know, the MTA is building out the East Side Access project that will, by 2016 or 2018 or some point this decade, bring LIRR service to Grand Central. The MTA studies show that tens of thousands of people from Long Island want and need direct service to the East Side. These folks currently travel via LIRR to Penn Station and then make their ways to the East Side. It’s circuitous and inconvenient.
Based on the current MTA funding proposals and the speed of construction, any Metro-North service into Penn Station is unlikely to see the light of day before the East Side Access project is completed. By then, the LIRR won’t need to run as many trains into Penn Station becomes some of its ridership will choose instead to go to the East Side. The Long Island Senators claim that, even after ESA is in service, LIRR must operate the same service into Penn Station. They want it all at the expense of better commutes for New Yorkers from Westchester. It simply defies transportation reason.