Home Metro-North LI Pols protesting better train service to NYC

LI Pols protesting better train service to NYC

by Benjamin Kabak

Penn Station access for Metro-North will not be a grievous insult to Long Islanders.

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.

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Chet February 10, 2012 - 11:50 am

I can’t decide if many of the politicians elected to office are stupid to begin with or they become stupid once they enter office.

Al D February 10, 2012 - 11:51 am

But will they support the LIRR Main Line Third Track, a critical aspect of ESA per LIRR but killed off by none other than the NIMBY’s I think?

Bolwerk February 10, 2012 - 12:17 pm

Well, this Penn matter is NIMBY-think too. Me me me me me.

Eric F. February 10, 2012 - 1:31 pm

The third track is dead. NIMBYs killed it. It’s no longer in the MTA’s plans.

Nathanael February 13, 2012 - 2:33 am

Without a third track on the Main Line, LIRR won’t even be able to run enough trains to use all its current slots at Penn and all its new slots at Grand Central. And by all evidence, Grand Central will actually be a more popular.

petey February 13, 2012 - 1:46 pm

“by all evidence, Grand Central will actually be a more popular.”

i do not doubt this for a second.

Boris February 10, 2012 - 11:57 am

The MTA should cut both LIRR and Metro-North service if there is a repeal of the payroll tax for counties outside NYC. That’ll make LI politicians forget all about this issue.

Frank B February 10, 2012 - 2:41 pm

Amen to that Boris. Again, except of course, service to and from Connecticut, where the Conn. Department of Transportation gladly pays an extremely fairtwo-thirds of all Metro North Costs.

Do you know why? Because Connecticut Politicians say, “Well, we’re just Connecticut. Most people work in New York. We offer bedroom communities for large parts of the state. Let’s embrace that, and provide decent train service, so Connecticut can grow and prosper.”

Now, I’m no fan of Connecticut, as my family and friends could tell you. But they’re even-minded, and fair.

Long Island’s problem, to put it bluntly, is that its full of idiots whom moved out their in droves because they were gutless and afraid of minorities (The Horror!) moving into their neighborhoods throughout the city. Robert Moses screwed us on that one by building Parkways and Expressways that these transit-ignorant citizens pack into, sitting in traffic with full aggravation day after day, year after year, instead of taking the LIRR.

Long Island’s problem is that they’re not humble like Connecticut. They think they’re as good as the five boroughs, if not better. (Which, anyone could tell you, and offense intended, they are not). They work against us; they’re a burden on New York City, not a blessing. They don’t pay our property taxes, they clog up Parkways and Expressways that should be used for New Yorkers only.

Long Island is an albatross around New York City’s neck, and it always will be, even when transit decisions affect them in no detrimental way whatsoever.

Bolwerk February 11, 2012 - 9:50 am

Connecticut NIMBYism concerning trains seems pretty godawful too. CT is at least a huge time bottleneck on the NEC, though the MTA probably is partly at fault for that.

I suppose it’s no surprise that LI would have an inferiority complex, though it is probably more about more affluent Westchester than NYC.

Nathanael February 13, 2012 - 2:34 am

Well, LI is going to flood horribly in the next decades, so you’ll be rid of it. Don’t know where the population will move though.

jim February 10, 2012 - 12:03 pm

I, too, was under the impression that LIRR trains would be diverted from Penn to GCT. But that doesn’t seem to be what LIRR is planning. Instead, they’re going to divert the trains which currently run into Atlantic Terminal to run into GCT (there’ll be an 8 tph shuttle between Jamaica and Atlantic Terminal) and add some service along the Port Washington Line to also run into GCT. Between the former Brooklyn bound trains and the new Port Washington trains, a lot of the ESA capacity will be absorbed. Most of the existing service into Penn will continue to run into Penn.

Even if Metro-North runs trains through Penn Station between the New Haven Line (along Hell Gate) and the Hudson Line (along the Empire Connection), they’ll still require a couple of tracks. The actual tracks would have to be accessible from the Empire Connection, so would have to be tracks NJT is currently using. But NJT and LIRR share a bunch of tracks and if NJT is pushed off tracks they’re now using, they’ll in turn push against LIRR. LIRR, because of the West Side Yards, is much more efficient in using platform tracks than NJT, so will lose more capacity from losing platform access, capacity they’re not planning on diverting.

There’s a conflict.

My guess is that there’s an internal MTA argument going on which LIRR is losing, so LIRR has called in external assistance.

Eric F. February 10, 2012 - 1:38 pm

Very interesting. Does LIRR’s passenger load justify that much additional service? Sounds like it’ll cost a fortune just to acquire and use the additional rolling stock. I had thought aggregate LIRR runs post ESA would be only up incrementally over what they do now, your post is a real eye-opener. Buy L.I. real estate while you still can!

Nathanael February 13, 2012 - 2:36 am

“Does LIRR’s passenger load justify that much additional service?”

No. And yet again LIRR treats its Brooklyn service like the red-headed stepchild.

Andrew February 13, 2012 - 8:04 pm

The LIRR’s loading guidelines call for a seated load, even during rush hours. By that standard, trains on some (or all?) branches are overcrowded during rush hours.

Of course, New York City Transit’s guidelines aren’t nearly that generous – an overcrowded LIRR train would be considered even slightly crowded if it were on the subway.

Mark May 9, 2012 - 3:49 pm

From where are you getting your information about diverting trains from Brooklyn to GCT?

Erik February 10, 2012 - 12:04 pm

Why can’t they figure out a way to play the suburban sub-regions off of one another rather than constantly suffering at their hands? Support the payroll tax? You get access!

Larry Littlefield February 10, 2012 - 12:34 pm

Long Island’s poltical class now realize that they have done to Nassau and Suffolk Counties what their predecessors had previously done to NYC before they moved out: wrecked it.

Long Island is in social and economic decline. The non-poor are choosing to live in NYC or, if they want to live in the suburbs, in the northern suburbs or NJ, not on Long Island.

Instead of asking why this is and trying to make Long Island better, the pols seek to do what they know — make someplace worse. In this case somewhere else.

There is a grifter culture on Long Island. Just look at the disability pensions on the LIRR as an example of it. Non-grifters are leaving, fleeing, meaning the grifter culture is taking charge even more. If this counties, the results will be catatrophic for what ought to be a great area.

City residents need to start caring about what is going on down there. They’ll take us down with them if they keep sinking.

Eric F. February 10, 2012 - 1:48 pm

So I take it you don’t have a Hamptons summer share? Islanders season tickets? A favorite store at Roosevelt Field? I guess L.I. is not for everyone.

Larry Littlefield February 10, 2012 - 3:13 pm

Not as it is now. They’ve got problems. Young folks who do well tend not to stay, and none are moving in from elsewhere. They’re likely to become NYC’s problems.

I think Suozzi and some others understood this, and were trying to come up with turnaround plans. ESA will help.

pete February 13, 2012 - 9:59 pm

Hempstead, Westbury, Brentwood. Long Island is really starting to look like the South Bronx.

Frank B February 10, 2012 - 2:46 pm

Indeed. Long Island could very well have some nasty spillover effects into Queens if we don’t take care of them.

I say, toll the Northern, Southern, and Long Island Expressways going over the border. Completely free to stay in Nassau or Suffolk, costs to get into New York.

You don’t want to pay a toll to get into New York? THEN LIVE IN NEW YORK! There’s tons of neighborhoods to live which are as cheap as houses in Nassau.

The Cobalt Devil February 10, 2012 - 3:04 pm

Totally! They can move to Staten Island if they don’t want to pay any tolls…oh, wait, never mind.

SEAN February 10, 2012 - 4:01 pm

I recently took house tours in the Gardens area of Forest Hills & the properties I saw may have been pricy, but you would pay less than half the property taxes compared to most SFR’s in either Nassau or Suffolk. This includes the yearly assessment that Forest Hills Gardens corp imposes.

The best part is that most everything you need is within walking distance or a short transit ride away. in adition the neighborhood feels nothing like you are in the city. It’s more like a small village.

Spendmore Wastemore February 10, 2012 - 9:52 pm

Ah, a member of the team!

LL has cogently painted the palavering political porkers, elected by a putrefying populace, united to spend and waste more, preferably from the proceeds of another’s toil.

Matthew February 10, 2012 - 9:17 pm

LIRR service is not being diverted from anywhere to Grand Central; it is being ADDED. There are to be several hundred new electric cars purchased to support adding service to a new terminal.

In the larger vision, new or expanded yards at the east end of the LIRR’s lines and adding a third track to Hicksville and adding a second track to Ronkonkoma. The third track is not dead, it has just been postponed until after ESA opens.

Once ESA opens, a huge number of LIRR passengers will abandon Penn Station for Grand Central. The LIRR’s budget will FORCE them to cut service to Penn because the ridership no longer supports so many trains.

Due to the capacity constraints under the Hudson, NJT and Amtrak aren’t able to run more trains just because the LIRR cuts service. It makes perfect sense to bring Metro-North into Penn via both the NEC (New Haven Line) and the Empire connection (Hudson line) after the LIRR’s cuts.

Someone else pointed out that the LIRR currently has 6 tracks into Manhattan and Brooklyn. With ESA, that number becomes 8 tracks. Metro-North only has 4 tracks into Midtown. By letting them come into Penn, that number would be 9 tracks. So by bringing Metro-North in, the two brothers will be almost equal in track capacity.

Bolwerk February 11, 2012 - 10:15 am

Just out of curiosity, how many MNRR riders actually want to get to the west side?

Farro February 12, 2012 - 11:53 am

At the very least, anyone who wants an easy transfer to Amtrak or NJT.

jim February 12, 2012 - 2:00 pm

The ’02 study said that Hudson Line to Penn Station would attract 3.5M riders per year of which 1.0M would be new MNRR riders. The numbers for New Haven into Penn were total ridership of 4.5M of which only 770K were new MNRR riders.

So 6.2M existing MNRR trips wold divert from Penn to GCT. Assuming they’re all daily commuters about 12,500 actual people.

Bolwerk February 12, 2012 - 6:49 pm

Well, I guess that’s not too shabby.

Nathanael February 13, 2012 - 2:42 am

MNRR “Penn Station Access” plans include 1-2 new stations on the Empire Connection on the west side of Manhattan, and a new station at Coop City.

As well as the commuters heading to the west side of Manhattan, Hudson Line – Penn service would attract people connecting to NJT in large numbers. New Haven Line – Penn Service would partly cannibalize existing Amtrak service, which is OK.

They haven’t considered operational plans yet; I think New Haven-Penn-Hudson through-routing, running trains straight through, would have some really nice results. Catenary over the Empire Connection please 🙂

dungone February 13, 2012 - 12:42 pm

Where I live is basically dictated by where the New Haven line stops. My girlfriend works near Penn Station, I work near Grand Central but also in Norwalk, CT. Having that option would make it a lot easier for us to live together without one or the other facing an extreme commute. In fact, I think it would be perfect. Flying in and out of Newark would be a lot more convenient as well, plus for getting on a regional bus or Amtrak. Especially since Amtrak seems to have long layovers at Penn Station, so it would make sense to transfer to the New Haven line at that point. It would also make a couple other parts of the city a little more viable for those who face a reverse commute. Plus there are supposed to be a few more Metro North stations, which could also open up a few more viable places for someone like me to live.

AG May 2, 2012 - 7:15 pm

Bolwerk- Metro North overtook LIRR to become the most used commuter rail in the country. There is no way to get to the West Side unless you take the Shuttle from GC to Times Square. That is VERY imbalanced. Most ppl won’t even bother to try to get a job on the Westside just because of that.

AG May 2, 2012 - 7:02 pm

Typical selfish politicians. So basically he only wants Long Island to get the benefit?? So sad. This project will affect the entire “tri-state area” in some form or another. For instance – if/when Met-North goes to Penn Station a person can live in Stamford, CT and commute to Jersey City (and vice versa). A person in CT can go to a game in the Meadowlands to watch a game without driving. Ppl in the Bronx (along the proposed new stations in the eastern part of the borough) would be able to get jobs in NJ or CT without owning a car. Why should only ppl from Long Island benefit from this project? Plainly selfish comments.

Lhota: East Side Access now expected in 2019 :: Second Ave. Sagas May 8, 2012 - 1:39 pm

[…] timeline will mean for the costs. I’ll have more info as I receive it. At least for now those bemoaning Metro-North service into Penn Station will have a good decade to refine their arguments. Share Tweet Categories : East Side Access […]

MTA moving forward on Penn Station Access studies :: Second Ave. Sagas June 21, 2012 - 12:52 am

[…] disappointing circumstances. Short-sighted and territorial Long Island politicians had begun to protest Metro-North service into Penn Station (and, similarly, diverting some LIRR service into Grand Central) because it would rob constituents […]


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