Full MTA Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) service to Grand Central Madison is set for Feb. 27. Limited shuttle service is currently running between Jamaica, N.Y., and Grand Central Madison, which on Jan. 25 opened more than 100 feet below Grand Central Terminal, bringing LIRR trains to the East Side of Manhattan for the first time.
Grand Central Terminal is now the expanded house of the two busiest commuter railroads in the country, MTA Metro-North Railroad and LIRR. The opening of Grand Central Madison “helps complete a decades’-long dream of a single complex serving two railroads and counties all over the region in one facility, uniting Westchester, Nassau, Suffolk, Putnam, Dutchess, the Bronx, Queens, and Connecticut all under one roof for the first time,” according to MTA.
MTA reports that it will add 271 LIRR trains per day starting Feb. 27, boosting systemwide service to 936 trains per day, of which 296 will be to or from Grand Central Madison.
Service levels will increase 41% over today’s schedules of 665 daily trains and create reverse-peak service on the Port Jefferson and Ronkonkoma Branches for the first time, according to MTA, which noted that train schedules are available through the TrainTime app and at mta.info.
All 11 LIRR branches will offer service to Grand Central Madison and Penn Station, in some cases via transfers, and the schedules provide rush-hour through-service to Brooklyn from Freeport, Hempstead and West Hempstead.
Following are branch-by-branch service highlights from MTA:
- Babylon Branch: Overall service on the branch will increase to 155 trains a day, 30 more trains than operate today, a service increase of 24%, and more of them will travel directly to Manhattan, 153 compared with 118 today. Meanwhile, reverse peak service is also growing, by five trains or 31%. On weekends, LIRR is adding 23 trains per day, a 28% service increase. Riders will now have the choice to travel directly to Penn Station or directly to Grand Central. Some stations will have access to additional limited-stop trains connecting with trains to or from Patchogue.
- Far Rockaway Branch: LIRR is increasing the number of direct trains per day between Far Rockaway and Manhattan, from eight trains today, seven of them in the peak, to 60 trains daily, covering all time periods. Off-peak, the branch’s primary western terminal will become Grand Central. Overall, the branch will host seven more trains per day, a 13% increase over current levels.
- Hempstead Branch: LIRR is boosting the number of direct trains per day between Hempstead and Manhattan, from 13 trains today, nine of them during the peak, to 57 trains daily, covering all time periods. Overall, seven trains per day are being added to the Hempstead Branch, increasing service by 14%.
- Long Beach Branch: The new schedules offer 12 morning rush hour trains and 11 evening rush hour trains, an increase of five per day. Total rush hour service to Manhattan rises to 23 trains daily, split between Penn Station and Grand Central, up by 10 from the 13 rush hour trains at Penn today. Reverse peak service will increase to 10 trains daily, up from seven today.
- Montauk Branch: The new timetables include adjusted rush hour departure times for trains originating in Speonk to improve the even spacing of trains. Additional Hicksville and Mineola stops will be added to better serve those commuting to Nassau County employment hubs. There will be additional service to/from Montauk between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
- Oyster Bay Branch: The overall number of trains is increasing to 32 per weekday, up from 28 that operate today, a service increase of 10%.
- Port Jefferson Branch: LIRR will add 38 trains per weekday, an increase of 39% over current levels. During the peak period, LIRR will increase service by seven trains daily, or 19% over existing levels. Reverse-peak service will add 11 trains, a 91% service increase.
- Port Washington Branch: LIRR will add 13 trains per day, bringing service on the branch up to 103 trains daily, a 14% service increase. During the weekday morning and evening peak, alternate trains will serve Penn Station and Grand Central. For reverse-peak commuters traveling as far as Great Neck, the new timetables eliminate an 85-minute gap in morning eastbound service and 72-minute gap in evening westbound service.
- Ronkonkoma Branch: Assisted by the opening of Main Line Third Track in October 2022, the new Mid-Suffolk Yard in Ronkonkoma in October 2020, and the second track between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma in September 2018, overall service on the branch will increase to 117 trains per day, a 50% increase over the current 78 daily trains that operate today, including those traveling east of Ronkonkoma. All trains will operate to Manhattan. Rush hour service will increase to 42 trains a day, 12 more trains than today, a 40% increase in service. Trains will alternate between Penn Station and Grand Central. Reverse peak, service is expanding to 18 trains a day, from 12 trains that operate today.
- West Hempstead Branch: LIRR will add 13 trains per day, bringing the total number of trains to 39 daily, an increase of 50%, and the trains will serve Manhattan directly during rush hours. During off-peak and weekend times, when the branch’s trains had previously ended at Valley Stream, service is being extended to Brooklyn. Overall reverse-peak service on the branch is more than doubling, to six trains, up from two currently.
- Service to Atlantic Terminal, Nostrand Avenue and East New York: LIRR is adding 36 trains per day to Atlantic Terminal, bringing 155 trains to or from the terminal daily, an increase of 30% over current levels. It will increase weekend service to Atlantic Terminal to 124 trains daily, up by 44 trains, or 55% over current levels. The West Hempstead Branch direct service is being extended to Atlantic Terminal during all times of day and all days.
- Enhanced Service for Local Event Venues: According to MTA, riders will see more frequent reverse peak and off-peak service making it easier to attend events at Barclays Center. Elmont-UBS Arena is now a full-time station with all Huntington/Ronkonkoma trains stopping during normal game times even at non-event days and times. Riders traveling from the Hudson Valley can transfer from a Metro-North train directly to an LIRR train for service to Mets-Willets point for Mets games, Citi Field events and US Open tennis. Riders from the northern suburbs will now have more opportunities to take trains to events at Forest Hills Stadium with trains to Forest Hills departing from both NYC terminals.
“This is the biggest service increase in LIRR history,” said Catherine Rinaldi, interim President of LIRR and President of Metro-North Railroad. “Long Islanders will benefit from a combination of Grand Central Madison service, the new LIRR Main Line third track and a second New York City terminal that links to the east side. The LIRR has created a new schedule with robust reverse commute service that links the entire region to Long Island’s homes, jobs, entertainment and education.”
“Faster, more convenient travel that brings Long Island closer to the heart of the City will be a major shot in the arm for the local economy and the effort to get people back to offices, theaters, and shopping,” MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said. “We’re excited for riders to get acquainted with the new schedules.”
MTA in June 2022 launched a new tool, gcmtrips.mta.info, allowing LIRR riders to plan trips to and from Grand Central Madison, Penn Station, Atlantic Terminal or any other station before service to Grand Central Madison was slated to begin.