Category Archives: Long Island Railroad

Amtrak completes repair work on Track 15 at Penn Station


Amtrak said Friday that the first stage of its current program of repairs at Penn Station has been completed.

The national railroad, which owns Penn Station and has come under fire over its deteriorated condition, began work at the beginning of January focusing on Track 15 — part of a series of infrastructure renovations at the aging rail hub.

The project included demolishing and replacing a section of concrete.

“We completed the track work within budget, safely, and with minimal amount of disruption to service, as committed,” Amtrak said in a statement, noting the the work was completed three days ahead of schedule.

Final touches — lighting and painting the platform — should finish up next week, it said, noting that the track has been placed back in service.

The schedule changes the LIRR put in place to accommodate Amtrak’s work schedule, affecting 5 percent of rush-hour travelers, will remain in place, until Amtrak finishes two other components of the current round of repairs over the next three months, officials said.

Amtrak said it will start a second project for the station’s “C” Interlocking — a complex of track switches to the east of the train platforms — on March 2.

The “C” Interlocking upgrade includes renewing and replacing three turnouts that direct Amtrak and LIRR trains to eastbound routes and the Sunnyside rail yard, Amtrak said.


MTA Chairman Says Pilot Program Transit Pass For LIRR, Subway & Bus Riders Coming Soon

The MTA promises a combined LIRR-MetroCard ticket for Southeast Queens commuters is coming soon.

The long-awaited transit pass will allow riders to buy one-way, weekly or monthly passes for both the LIRR and the city’s bus and subway systems.

People commuting from southeast Queens were expecting to get the passes last fall, but the pilot was delayed by the summer subway melt down.

At a budget hearing in Albany on Thursday, MTA Chairman Joe Lhota promised the pilot program is imminent.

“We are working on it as we speak. We’re very, very close,” he said. “I fully expect it to happen this year and my expectation, when I say this year, don’t think about it as the end of the year. It could happen relatively soon.”

The ticket would be sold at several LIRR stations including Atlantic Terminal, East New York, Nostrand Avenue, Laurelton, Rosedale, St. Albans and Locust Manor.

The MTA’s hope is commuters seeking to save time and money will tap into underutilized, but more expensive LIRR service.

Local lawmakers pushing for the ticket predict it could save as many as 10 hours of commuting time per week.

Everything you need to know about getting around NYC over Christmas

As we head into Christmas weekend, now’s a good time to take a look at how your commute will be affected during the holidays.

You can bet that the city’s myriad methods of transportation—the subway, bus, ferry, commuter rail, and whatever else you can think of—will have schedule changes in effect. And if you’re driving, plan ahead because holidays are known to turn the city’s already congested street into a traffic nightmare. (In fact, the DOT has cited the three days leading into the holiday weekend as gridlock days.)

Plus, Governor Andrew Cuomo has directed both the MTA and Port Authority to ramp up security measures—by adding more patrol officers in subway stations, at major transit hubs (like the WTC Transportation Hub and Port Authority Bus Terminal), at bridges, and more—in the wake of the terrorist attack in the subway system earlier this month. Put all that together and you have a recipe for a very hectic holiday commute.

If you’re worried about getting around, never fear; here’s everything you need to know about service changes this week on subways, buses, airports, streets, and more.

NYC subway
Of course there are subway changes: On Christmas day itself, the MTA will be operating on a Sunday schedule, so you can expect some service disruptions. Here’s the full rundown, per the MTA:

No 2/3 service in Brooklyn; 2 trains run between South Ferry and the Bronx, and 3 trains run between 14 St and Harlem-148 St.
4 service runs between Woodlawn and New Lots Av.
5 service runs between Flatbush Av and the Bronx.
No express service on the 5 or D trains in the Bronx, or the 6 or 7 trains.
No B service; use the A, C, D and/or Q instead.
M service runs between Delancey-Essex Sts and Broadway Junction, and between Myrtle-Wyckoff Avs and Metropolitan Av.
No W service; use the N, Q or R instead.
No J/Z skip-stop service – take the J instead.
Phew. More details are at the MTA’s Weekender site.

Christmas Eve will also mark the final journey for the New York Transit Museum’s special vintage holiday trains; they’ll travel between Second Ave and Lexington Ave-63rd St on the F line, and then along the Q—aka the Second Avenue subway—from 63rd St to 96th St. Trains begin running at 10 a.m. and the last one leaves the Upper East Side at 5 p.m.

NYC Buses
City buses
will also run on a Sunday schedule on Christmas and there are several lines that have holiday season bus stop changes in effect.

If you rely on the bus to get to and from LaGuardia Airport, then good news: the MTA and the Port Authority will offer free service along the Q70’s Select Bus Route, which operates between the airport and several subway stations in Queens. The buses go from LGA to the 61 St-Woodside subway station on the 7, and the Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Av stop, which services the E, F, M, R, and 7 lines. It’s in effect from December 21 through January 8.

Metro-North and LIRR
Both of the MTA’s commuter rail lines will have myriad service changes beginning this week; here’s the breakdown:

Metro-North: There will be extra trains running from Grand Central Terminal on Friday beginning at 1 p.m., and “evening trains will be cancelled or combined because of reduced ridership later in the day,” per Metro-North’s website. There will be “shopper’s special” trains running on Sunday, aka Christmas Eve; on Christmas day, there will be hourly service on most lines, and other changes to the schedule. All of that information is available on Metro-North’s website, and there are some different changes in effect for lines west of the Hudson.

New Jersey Transit
There are plenty of changes to NJT service over the weekend, chief among them the addition of early “getaway” service, similar to what the Metro-North is offering, on Friday; trains will begin running to and from Penn Station at 1 p.m. to accommodate holiday travelers. There will also be additional buses running on some lines from Port Authority beginning at 12:30 p.m.; best to check the NJT website for full details.

Trains will also operate on a weekend/major holiday schedule on Monday.

PATH trains will operate on a Saturday schedule on Thanksgiving day, and a modified weekday schedule on the day after Thanksgiving. There aren’t too many other details available, but the PATH Twitter account is a good place to check for updates.

NYC Ferry
On Christmas, all ferry service will operate on a weekend schedule and the Midtown and Downtown Far Rockaway shuttle bus will not run at all.

The days leading up to Christmas are always ridiculous and overwhelming for travelers—and New York’s airports won’t be immune to chaos. Both LGA and JFK have been blasting out travel tips via Twitter, which boil down to the basics: arrive earlier than you think you need to; take public transportation (use that free Q70 service!); be prepared with your boarding pass; you know the drill.

Some quick things to note: There’s construction happening at LGA currently, so definitely allow yourself extra time if you’re planning on driving or taking a cab to the airport. (And its hourly parking lot is closed to facilitate construction; more details on that here.)

The TSA’s website also lets you check out the wait times at different security gates at NYC’s various airports; find that here.

Could NY City have a Train Disaster?

Commuter railroads serving the Big Apple face an uphill climb to meet next year’s deadline for installing anti-crash technology that could have prevented this week’s deadly derailment in Washington state, federal records show.
Less than one-third of all locomotives operated by the MTA and NJ Transit have been outfitted with Positive Train Control systems mandated in 2008, according to data compiled by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

Metro-North — where in 2013 four riders were killed when a speeding train jumped the tracks in The Bronx — has installed automatic-braking devices in just 27 percent of its 531 engines and doesn’t have a single segment of track fully equipped with transmitters to activate them.

The Long Island Rail Road — where more than 100 passengers were injured this past Jan. 4 when a train smashed into a bumper block at Brooklyn’s Atlantic Terminal — has 49 percent of its 580 locomotives equipped with PTC, and just one of its 15 major track sections.

The slow pace of the upgrades comes despite a low-cost, $967 million loan from the FRA more than two years ago to pay for the work.

NJ Transit, which is spending $320 million on PTC, has outfitted less than 6 percent of its 440 locomotives and none of its tracks.

PTC is a GPS-based system that uses on-board electronics and transmissions from track-side signals and radio towers to automatically apply brakes if speeding trains are in danger of derailing or crashing.

Congress ordered PTC installation on major US rail lines following a 2008 Los Angeles train collision that killed 25 people, but federal lawmakers provided no funding, leaving railroads and their riders to foot the bill.

Railroads were initially given until Dec. 31, 2015, but two months before the deadline it was extended for at least three years.

Amtrak has admitted that the system wasn’t activated on the speeding Washington state train that plunged off an overpass onto a busy interstate during an inaugural, high-speed run from Seattle to Portland Monday, killing three people and injuring more than 100.

Retired NYPD cop Eddie Russell, who survived the 2013 Bronx derailment, was outraged that Metro-North still isn’t using PTC on all trains.

“I don’t think they’re concerned about the commuters, they are worried about money,” said Russell, who has a pending $10 million suit over his injuries.

MTA board member Mitchell Pally blamed the delay on the limited number of companies manufacturing “this very complicated equipment,” which has to be custom-built for each railroad.

MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said the agency was “moving heaven and earth to make the Positive Train Control deadline by the end of 2018.”

Poor MTA Chairman Joe Lhota is literally poor! NO MONEY

MTA Approves LIRR Third Track Project, Despite Cost Concerns


The MTA board approved funding on Wednesday for a $2.6 billion project known as The Third Track Project on the Long Island Railroad. The project has been discussed for over 40 years, and costs have already gone up from estimates last year of up to $1.5 billion, to $2.6 billion now.

Many MTA board members voiced concerns about embarking on another large, costly project, while East Side Access and other big projects remain unfinished.

“We are in an economic red zone that is challenging our ability to keep what we already have in a state of good repair,” board member Andrew Saul said at Wednesday’s MTA board meeting. “We’d be wise to expand the system very, very carefully right now.”

Saul voted to approve The Third Track Project.

“I just hope we do a hell of a lot better job managing this one as we did with East Side Access and the Second Avenue Subway,” Saul said.

Construction is expected to begin next year, with a completion date of 2022.

Simple, Big Solutions for Penn’s Problems

Gotham Gazette

The original Penn Station was an architectural masterpiece. The most ironic part about removing it in a “monumental act of vandalism,” though, is that as a transit facility the original Penn Station had serious flaws. In fact, the platforms and tracks haven’t been significantly altered in more than a century.

Unfortunately, those flaws are growing more obvious by the day. Narrow, crowded platforms and grossly inadequate stairs and escalators are a constant source of delays, dangerous overcrowding and frustration for commuters. But most importantly, Penn Station is not actually a station for most passengers – it’s a terminal. The difference is not merely semantic; in a terminal, trains must cross each other as they enter and leave, making it far less efficient than a through-running station. Even when this doesn’t cause delays, it severely limits capacity and ensures every train has to travel more slowly in Penn.

Twenty-five years ago, we could tolerate these inefficiencies, but passenger counts from Long Island and New Jersey have skyrocketed. Any major investment plan for Penn Station must be focused on solving the cause of commuters’ misery. Amtrak’s Gateway Program and the new Moynihan Station, if optimized, could do so.

Phase 1 of Gateway would add two new critically-needed tracks between Newark and Penn Station. Phase 2 of Gateway, though, includes a new terminal station—Penn Station South. This would require the demolition of an entire city block at a price tag of $8 billion to build another inefficient terminal, and do nothing to alleviate conditions in the existing station. Those funds are better spent on improving Penn and regional connectivity.

This alternate plan would remove the need for Penn Station South, provide additional economic opportunity for the entire region and the opportunity to invest in projects that create smoother and smarter commutes. Through-running is the key to unlocking the ReThinkNYC vision. Highlights of that vision include:

First, build new facilities in the Bronx and New Jersey so it is possible to operate Penn Station as a through station. NJ Transit trains could be extended to Queens, the Bronx, and then along existing Long Island Railroad and Metro-North Lines; similarly, Metro-North and LIRR could be extended to New Jersey.

Next, widen and lengthen Penn’s existing platforms – and use the 31st Street side of the station for eastbound trains and the 33rd Street side for westbound ones, regardless of final destination. Universal “smart” ticketing between the systems can help erase arbitrary distinctions.

This would allow nearly 50% more trains to use the station.
NJ Transit would no longer need to use Sunnyside Yards, making it possible to instead build a major station across the East River that would have access to all of the region’s 26 commuter rail lines, Amtrak, both Penn Station and Grand Central, and seven subway lines. Sunnyside could be the new East Midtown.

In Port Morris, the light industrial neighborhood east of the Bruckner Expressway and south of Hunts Point, commuters could catch NJ Transit and Metro-North – and an extended Second Avenue Subway serving the Bronx.

An AirTrain under the East River to an expanded LaGuardia Airport would provide a quick, convenient single seat ride for millions.

New Yorkers once dreamed of, and then built, big projects. Now, in this post-Robert Moses, post-urban renewal era, planners are taught to think “politically” smaller. This approach has prevented us from addressing transportation systemically and holistically. It’s time to think big…again.

below is the same chart as the featured image.

Jim Venturi is Principal and Founder of ReThink Studio. On Twitter @jimventuri and @RethinkNYCplan.

NYC transit upgrades are long overdue

AM New York

For weeks, the newest plans for MTA capital projects, including $3 billion in funding for key improvements to subways, bridges, tunnels and commuter railroads, sat in wait.

Now, after plenty of typical Albany political posturing, those proposals are on track. State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan finally gave the last pieces of the capital plan the go-ahead on Tuesday night.

The move couldn’t have come at a better time. NYC residents have faced extensive subway delays, power and signal problems, a dangerous derailment, and a host of other issues in recent months. And this summer, as Amtrak makes extensive repairs at Penn Station, the MTA is depending on its strained subway system even more, making the need for improvements all the more apparent.

So, expanding and upgrading the system are essential. The MTA’s plans include $700 million to fund part of the important next phase of the Second Avenue Subway, which will extend the line into East Harlem but could ultimately cost $6 billion.

And the plan adds more funds for cashless electronic tolling at bridges and tunnels.

On top of that, the MTA’s amended plan creates a new span of track on the Long Island Rail Road that will help ease reverse train commutes for NYC residents who work in Nassau or Suffolk counties.
Together, the improvements will ripple through the region, boost the economy and create the opportunity for new and better-paying jobs in the city and beyond.

And all of it is part of the MTA’s larger $32.5 billion overall capital plan, which extends through 2019 and includes money for signals, subway cars and buses, along with repairs and improvements to bus depots, subway station accessibility, and more.

None of it, of course, will get done quickly enough. But it could be the start of a broader effort by state and MTA officials to think and act bigger, to recognize the extensive needs of our subways and commuter rails, and to start modernizing the public transportation system to meet the needs of its riders.

MTA can’t afford to wait on signals upgrades

Problems with both NYCT system-wide subway and LIRR signals at Penn Station require decisive action today, not tommorow.

The MTA must reprogram the $695 million Metro North East Bronx Penn Station Access, the $1.7 billion Second Avenue Subway Phase 2, and the $1.9 billion LIRR Main Line Third Track to help fund upgrading NYCT Subway System Signals. This would provide well over $3 billion as a down payment against $20 billion needed to bring NYCT Subway System Signals up to a state of good repair.

All three canceled projects can be funded out of the next MTA Five-Year Capital Plan for 2020-2024. This still provides ample time for both Metro North East Bronx Penn Station Access and LIRR Main Line Third Track project completions to coincide with LIRR East Side Access to Grand Central Terminal by December 2023 or 2024.

Governor Andrew Cuomo also needs to come up with the outstanding balance of $5.8 billion that he still owes toward the $8.3 billion shortfall to fully fund the $32 billion 2015-2019 MTA Five Year Capital Plan. The MTA can’t afford to wait until 2018 or 2019 for both $5.8 billion and additional $1 billion recently pledged by Cuomo in response to the ongoing subway and LIRR Penn Station crises.

In June 2016, the United States Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration provided $432 million in Superstorm Sandy funding to the MTA for repairs to the East River Tunnel, including signal upgrades. As of today, no funds have been spent. The MTA and LIRR have yet to complete negotiations with Amtrak for initiation of this work.

Amtrak Says It Won’t Pay For LIRR’s Emergency Penn Station Plan. It’s Unclear Who Will.

GOTHAMIST from California Rail News

Amtrak does not want to front the bill for at least eight weeks of Long Island Railroad schedule changes, fare reductions and ferry and bus alternatives during this summer’s emergency Penn Station repairs, president C.W. Moorman confirmed in a letter to the MTA on Wednesday. The news comes a week after the MTA outlined a contingency plan of unknown cost, insisting the burden will not fall on commuters.

“The LIRR has no basis to seek compensation for such costs from Amtrak,” Moorman wrote. He added that Amtrak estimates its contribution this summer to be between $30 and $40 million, and that the MTA’s call for reimbursement would violate the authority’s contract with Amtrak (the MTA rents terminal space from Amtrak at Penn Station).

Acting MTA Director Ronnie Hakim hinted at Wednesday’s MTA Board meeting at a price tag in the millions for planned LIRR contingencies. Hakim also vowed to consult MTA lawyers about “our rights” to force Amtrak’s hand. But some Board Members were skeptical, accusing Hakim and the MTA of poor planning in assuming Amtrak would pay. Some also demanded clarification on the cost of the plan, and argued that putting time and energy into avoiding the expense would be a waste.

“We should be doubling down on seeking federal funding, and focus our legal team on addressing funding [issues] in D.C.,” she added.
Other members of the board said that they doubted the federal government would come through. Amtrak’s federal funding was cut in 2015, and Trump’s vague infrastructure plan could also spell cuts. “We would always like to talk about the receipt of federal funds,” said acting board chairman Fernando Ferrer. “I don’t engage in fantasy, so let’s be realistic about this.”
Polly Trottenberg, a mayoral appointee to the board and commissioner of the NYC Department of Transportation, was more blunt.
“I will boldly say, I don’t think we’re getting the money from Amtrak and sadly I don’t think Uncle Sam is riding to the rescue either,” she said. “I think we’re going to have to accept that we’re going to be paying for this. So I have a basic question: what’s the price tag?”

Could this ‘visionary’ plan solve the area’s transit woes? (VIDEO) via California Rail News

With Penn Station’s failing infrastructure at capacity, a plan to merge the area’s train and bus service into one regional system is the cornerstone of an idea floated by a New York design firm as a solution to the region’s commuting problems.

Called ReThink NYC Plan 2050, the centerpiece of the idea is a unified commuter rail that connects NJ Transit, Metro North and the Long Island Rail Road lines through a revamped Penn Station…

Some funding for the plan, estimated to cost $48 billion, would come from scaling back plans to replace the Port Authority Bus Terminal with a smaller structure. It would eliminate plans to build an annex south of Penn Station, which Rick called “a $7 billion to $8 billion mistake.”
The main criticism of Penn South annex is the extra tracks would dead end, limiting their usefulness.

“No other city is building a terminal in its core,” Rick said.
Instead, all platforms under Penn Station would be extended beneath the Moynihan Station, which will be the new name of the converted Farley postal facility.