LIRR pulling cars from new Grand Central service that brought chaos at Atlantic Terminal, Penn Station; MTA admits ‘tough week’
Long Island Rail Road bosses will divert equipment and cancel some service to its new Grand Central Terminal platforms as schedules rejiggered to create the new service caused chaos and crowding elsewhere in its network.
“We may cancel a few trains that nobody is using so that we can take the cars and put them on the trains that are very busy,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Janno Lieber.
The MTA will also increase the frequency of the LIRR’s shuttle service between Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn and Jamaica, Queens an attempt to quell the chaos at Jamaica Station.
Lieber announced the plans Friday during a state Senate hearing on the MTA budget.
Lawmakers questioned the transit chief after the unprecedented expansion of the LIRR to its new Grand Central Madison platforms disrupted the lives of many commuters headed to Penn Station and Atlantic Terminal in downtown Brooklyn.
“I was out at Jamaica twice this week, I was in Grand Central Madison a couple of times this week — it’s a tale of two experiences,” Lieber said.
“At Jamaica, people were struggling. There were a lot of frustrated customers adapting to the new system,” Lieber said. “At Grand Central Madison, people were thrilled.
“This was a tough, tough week for Long Island Rail Road customers,” he added.
The admission came after the Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council blasted the service changes for lengthening riders’ commutes and causing “extreme overcrowding” at Jamaica Station.
In a statement, the council said riders were “rushing and pushing up crowded stairs and escalators to change trains” after the elimination of timed connections at the station.
“We have never had a schedule change of this scale,” Lieber acknowledged.
In addition to crowding, the schedule change sowed confusion among seasoned straphangers, Lieber said.
“The Atlantic [line] customers [headed to Brooklyn] were not accustomed to having to change over the bridge at Jamaica to get to the new shuttle,” he said. “The experience for folks who were encountering the new schedule for the first time was not great.”
Growing pains were expected, the MTA chief said. But the agency had predicted that 40% of Manhattan-bound riders would opt for Grand Central Madison and 60% for Penn. In reality the first week saw a 70/30 split.
“Our commitment is to work at this to make it much, much better,” Lieber said.