Home Brooklyn Post-game specials from the LIRR, but who pays?

Post-game specials from the LIRR, but who pays?

by Benjamin Kabak

The MTA will run extra subway and LIRR trains from the Barclays Center after events are over. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

My unintentional week of coverage concerning the new Barclays Center wraps up today with a look at an announcement from the LIRR. The MTA, as we know, will run extra service along the 2, 4 and Q lines after events at the Barclays Center in order to clear out the crowds, and this week, the agency announced plans to increase LIRR service out of the Atlantic Avenue Terminal as well. With extra train service and a dearth of easy parking in the area, everyone from the MTA to Brooklyn residents are hoping that relatively few people will drive to the Barclays Center.

“If you are planning on attending a Nets game or going to see JAY-Z, Barbra Streisand, Justin Bieber, The Who or any of the other top acts at Brooklyn’s hottest new venue, we will have plenty of trains to get you there and get you home at the end of your evening,” LIRR President Helena Williams said in a rather canned statement. “The LIRR’s new Atlantic Terminal is just across the street from the Barclays Center, so using the LIRR is definitely the most convenient way to go.”

The MTA has released a brocher detailing post-event service [pdf], and here’s a detailed breakdown of the plan:

The LIRR’s enhanced late-night service from Atlantic Terminal will feature eastbound trains departing approximately every 15-25 minutes after an event. Following Nets games, the last train from Atlantic Terminal will depart at 11:55 PM on both weeknights and weekends. Following evening concerts and other special events, the last train from Atlantic Terminal will depart at 12:41 AM weeknights and weekends. NYPD and MTA Police will be on hand to assist customers arriving at the Center.

There is, of course, a catch: These extra trains will essentially operate as shuttles, ferrying riders from Atlantic Avenue to Jamaica, where Long Island-bound travelers will have to catch the next scheduled train to their ultimate destinations. Still, as the MTA’s brochure illustrates, the increased service is designed to ensure that riders make it to their connecting trains in time. The shortest layovers in Jamaica will last all of two minutes, leaving very little margin for error. Island-bound riders who can’t get to Jamaica will have to resort to 2 or 3 train service back to Penn Station.

I was curious about the extra service. Who pays for it all, I wondered. The issue isn’t without controversy as the WMATA and Nationals have run into a dispute this season over service for games that run late. Metro has asked the Nats to pony up nearly $30,000 per hour when the team wants the D.C. subway to run later than normal. In New York, the system’s closing too early isn’t the issue but frequency is.

In New York, the MTA picks up the bill for extra service. The only exception concerns special service to Belmont for which the New York Racing Association pays. Officially, the MTA says it’s just part of the agency’s overall job. “Our subway, bus and commuter rail services remove cars from road, help improve the environment and support the economy. If thousands of people want to travel to a sporting event, a concert, a parade or just a nice day in the park, we are there to make their trips as safe and efficient as possible,” the MTA said to me in a statement. “Of course, the main reason we add extra trains and buses following sporting and other special events is to increase capacity in order to accommodate everyone, including regular customers who are not traveling to or from an event.”

I’ll leave you then with a question: Should the MTA pay for this service? It comes, after all, out of taxpayer and fare-payer pockets, but at the same time, the extra service goes a long way toward keeping cars off the road. One of the reasons why the Yankee Stadium parking lots, for instance, have been so empty is due to the increased Metro-North and subway service. It seems then that the few extra trains are beneficial to everyone. It’s a win-win a relatively marginal cost.

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Larry Littlefield September 21, 2012 - 7:08 am

For an off peak improvement, with all those fixed costs, what you are really talking about is electric power and the crew on the trains. Which isn’t much compared with the track, signals, stations, car maintenance, pensions, workman’s comp, health insurance, etc.

Only on the LIRR would it even be a question that the farebox will more than cover the marginal cost.

Alon Levy September 21, 2012 - 5:19 pm

Maintenance scales with distance driven, so add that. That’s on both the FRA for requiring every EMU to be maintained as if it’s a locomotive, and the LIRR for having steam-era work rules.

Bolwerk September 21, 2012 - 7:46 am

Post-game specials don’t need to be profitable for the TA to be worth it. They just need to not result in a bigger loss per-rider, and I don’t see why they aren’t reasonable. The TA is absolutely right that it’s better than stuffing even a fraction of that many people into cars.

Michael September 21, 2012 - 7:52 am

Shuttle trains running after events should be very full. Since this doesn’t extend operating hours and as Larry mentioned, only requires extra crews and power cost, The LIRR should actually gain revenue from these full trains.

The toughest part will be checking tickets on packed trains to ensure everyone is paying. In San Francisco for Caltrain Service after Giants games the trains are standing room only, and the conductors are unable to walk through the trains to check tickets. This forces them to check all the passenger tickets manually before people board the platform.

Getting a universal transit card for the region fare gate entry to the very busiest stations like Atlantic Ave, Penn Station and Grand Central would help ensure fewer lost fare revenues.

Dan September 21, 2012 - 5:13 pm

At Willets Point (LIRR), and probably Belmont too, the MTA does ticket checks as you exit the station, and then before going to the platform on the trip home. For NJ Transit service to the Meadowlands, you put your ticket through the usual machine in switching between the Hoboken/Port Jervis and Northeast Corridor lines.

SomeGuy32 September 21, 2012 - 8:53 am

Weeknight trains currently leave at 9:42, 10:08, 10:28, 11:14, and 11:55. (also 5 trains in that time frame on weekends)

a 10-car LIRR train holds 1055 seated people.
They’ll probably only need 2 or 3 more sets of trains.

Matthew September 21, 2012 - 3:09 pm

Ten car trains don’t fit at Atlantic Terminal.

mike d. September 21, 2012 - 5:05 pm

WRONG, Track 1 and Track 2 can fit 10 cars easily.

Track 3 and Track 4 can fit 8 cars.

Track 5 is 6 cars.

and Track 6 is 4 cars.

People actually allow walk through the cars if Car #9 and Car #10 cant platform in.

BoerumBum September 21, 2012 - 9:05 am

I think it’s a win for everyone. Long Islanders and those from Eastern Queens get extra service, and the MTA gets (hopefully) good will for helping that segment of the population, one that often thinks poorly of mass transit.

Eric F September 21, 2012 - 9:30 am

I don’t have any problem with matching capacity with demand. That’s the point of the system, to my mind. I would query whether there will be much farebox recovery though. I bet most people using the LIRR to get to the place likely buy monthly passes thatn cover travel to and from the fare zone encompassing Manhattan-Brooklyn and thus will pay no additional fare. The LIRR runs trains to Shea, which I think pick up casual users who want a quick trip from Manhattan, whether they may be Manhattanites or people transferring from Jersey trains. However, the LIRR route to Barclays won’t touch Manhattan, and thus the riders will be pretty much limited to Long Island people, and Long Island train-friendly people at that, whom are pretty much the people you;d expect to already be in possession of a monthly pass.

Larry Littlefield September 21, 2012 - 10:29 am

I’d expect that some people from Long Island who do not normally commute to Manhattan to take the train to the game.

After all, they aren’t going to want to take their cars to the borough their ancestors fled from a generation or two ago. Too risky.

Eric F September 21, 2012 - 12:58 pm

Good point. The Long Islanders who occupy the imaginations of the people who comment on this site would have a host of problems driving into Brooklyn. For example, their cars might be jarred by the rough Brooklyn roads, which could knock their monocles off and cause an accident. The mustache wax they use is generally unavailable outside of Brooklyn Heights. Most of these figment Long Islanders spend their days playing golf at exclusive country clubs and tooling about on their yachts, luxuriating on teh copious subsidies provided by downtrodden people in New York City, and may be skittish about associating with them. Finally, they have probably never heard of Jay-Z, and since all the promotional activity didn’t register with them, they may be completely unaware that a new facility even exists, or assume that it is way down market compared to their palatial Nassau Colliseum.

Larry Littlefield September 21, 2012 - 1:19 pm

My wife grew up on Long Island. Her siblings don’t like to drive their car to Brooklyn. They generally volunteer to host all the holiday gatherings where they now live, in New Jersey.

Something about being stuck on the highway for four hours on Mothers’ Day on the way to vist Grandma during their childhoods.

Eric F September 21, 2012 - 1:24 pm

It’s perversely easier to drive into and park in Manhattan than it is in Brooklyn.

I am aware of a story of a medical specialist being summoned to a hospital in Brooklyn from a hospital on the upper east side. He drove down, figuring he’d drop into the doctors’ lot for the Brooklyn hospital. That tiny lot was fuklly occupied, there was no nearby street parking and this $500/hour specialist lost about an hour just getting his car sorted so he could see a patient for 20 minutes.

Larry Littlefield September 21, 2012 - 6:44 pm

Marty Markowitz says Brooklyn is where New York begins. It is actually where New York ends. Because there is no southern suburbs (the ocean is there), Brooklyn is the only borough you have to drive through another borough to get to from outside the city.

I know. I had to teach my kid to drive, and you aren’t allowed to drive in NYC until age 18 unless you are in a dual control car. I had to drive through Manhattan to New Jersey, or through Queens to Nassau, for several weeks.

Bolwerk September 21, 2012 - 3:45 pm

I have to ask: do you have an orgasm every time you write several paragraphs of crude sarcasm that completely miss the point?

Eric F September 21, 2012 - 4:22 pm

Sorry, I’m sitting here by the pool in Long Island and I’m having trouble hearing you over the din created by the strolling violinists. Mineola is absolutely enchanting this time of year.

Russell September 21, 2012 - 10:25 am

While it’s good that they’re adding service in the form of shuttles, it would be nice to see them do what Metro-North does with Yankee Stadium in the form of “post-game direct” service. I can see the platforms get awfully crowded if 1000+ people are trying to transfer all at once. At the least, they could do one direct Babylon train and one direct Huntington train making all stops. They could leave right at the end of the game the way Metro-North post game direct trains leave.

Duke September 21, 2012 - 8:11 pm

Metro-North can run direct trains from Yankee Stadium because they only have four places to send them: Stamford, New Haven, Croton-Harmon, and Poughkeepsie. There are ten potential eastern destinations on LIRR from Atlantic Terminal. One direct train to each is more service than they are adding and more service than they need to add. Probably also more service than they practically can add, considering you only have two tracks leading east out of the terminal and only six tracks in it.

LIRR could take an example out of Metro-North’s book and run some of their shorter branches as shuttles only off-peak, which would solve the destination problem, but that’d require a change in mindset that isn’t happening and I don’t know that the track and switch setup allows for that to be done on Long Island the way it is on the New Haven Line.

Tsuyoshi September 21, 2012 - 10:41 am

The MTA should definitely pay for it. I don’t see how it is any different then peak service — we don’t demand that Midtown Manhattan employers pay for the extra service provided at that time.

But, like the tax-expenditure-subsidized, employer-paid transit passes that we already have, there are further ways to encourage transit use. For example, you could have some kind of deal where every ticket to an event at Barclays Center includes a free subway, bus, or LIRR ticket. This could be structured as a bulk purchase of transit service, with an appropriate discount.

Seth Rosenblum September 21, 2012 - 11:37 am

The MTA should definitely be the one paying for this. It’s their job to figure out where demand from their services is going to be, and to get enough service to meet that demand, this is just a particularly predictable situation. The increasing demand for services, like an increase in ridership, is always good for the MTA since it increases the fare revenue, but also increases the public’s appreciation for great transit.

JAR September 21, 2012 - 12:01 pm

“The shortest layovers in Jamaica will last all of two minutes, leaving very little margin for error. ”

I wouldn’t sweat this one. In general, I’ve found LIRR very good about holding trains a couple of extra minutes at Jamaica to allow the scheduled connection.

Curious to see how ridership actually turns out, and whether there’s going to be a Nets fanbase on Long Island (given MSG is better situated for Long Island fans) or attendance will mostly be for concerts and other events.

Jeff September 21, 2012 - 1:00 pm

There’s the chance that the Islanders might move to Barclays, which would definitely fill these LIRR trains up since it would be the only realistic way for Long Islanders to get to the arena.

Other than that I doubt the Nets will have a significant fanbase from Long Island (even if they played in Nassau County 40 years ago)

AG September 21, 2012 - 5:24 pm

Even without the Islanders – there already almost 200 events set for the first year in the Barclay’s. The Nets(without the playoffs) are only 41 of them.

Josh September 21, 2012 - 5:27 pm

The seating capacity for hockey at Barclays is only 14,500, because they stupidly built it so that you have to take out basically four whole sections of floor-level seating to fit a rink into the building:
I think from a pure revenue standpoint, the increased amount of suites and premium-level seating would probably make up for the decrease in overall capacity (16,250 at Nassau Coliseum), but if I were an Islander fan (and if there were such a thing as Islander fans), I would be upset at the decreased availability of reasonably priced tickets.

AG September 21, 2012 - 5:22 pm

If the Nets are winning… ppl from Long Island will go… but otherwise yeah – I think for “other events”.

DF September 21, 2012 - 1:11 pm

“Island-bound riders who can’t get to Jamaica will have to resort to 2 or 3 train service back to Penn Station.”

Indeed, the brochure suggests that “For those planning to stay in Brooklyn even later, LIRR service to Long Island is available at Penn Station in Manhattan,” and mentions the 2 and 3. Maybe I am being too pedantic when I say that if you miss the last train of the night, you’ve also missed the last 3 of the night in Brooklyn. (Of course, this lack of precision is of no practical consequence.)

Henry September 22, 2012 - 12:26 pm

I don’t know whether LIRR would be helpful in that case, either = this is from personal experience, but I remember looking at the departures board at the LIRR concourse late at night. The train I was going home left at 1 or 2 AM. The train after that left at about 5 or 6AM.

This was only for Penn to Jamaica, so I don’t know how horrid LIRR service on the outer reaches is at night.

Kai B September 23, 2012 - 5:56 pm

The late night service cut in 2010 is planned to be restored in March 2013.

I don’t remember what that service was, but I would guess at least one train an hour all night.


Jerrold September 21, 2012 - 4:25 pm

This is off-topic, I know, but there is nowhere else here where I can post it to be seen.

Today, I happened to be on East 47th St. again.
Last weekend, a workman told me that the new Grand Central entrance there will be opening on Monday (the 17th). Today, it was still not open, and a workman told me that it will open Monday (the 24th).

The only reason that I’m making a big deal out of this matter is that it shows how the MTA does not even give accurate information to their own employees, much less to the public.

AG September 21, 2012 - 5:20 pm

Why not pay? That’s what the transit system is for… I used NJ Trasit to the Meadowlands Stadium and Metro North at Yankee Stadium. I preferred both to driving…. and the trains were packed at both.


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