East Side Access touted as economic game changer for LI
Long Island Rail Road’s upcoming East Side Access, coupled with its soon-to-be-completed Third Track Project, is promising to give the region a big economic boost, and a break for commuters.
“For those Long Islanders who work on the East Side taking the train to Grand Central Madison will reduce commutes by up to 40 minutes a day,” Catherine Rinaldi, LIRR’s interim president, said.
Rinaldi spoke to the business community at a recent Long Island Association meeting in Melville, promoting the long-awaited East Side Access with LIRR service to Grand Central. The new station, slated to open in December, is dubbed Grand Central Madison. Coupled with the third track on the LIRR Main Line, which said to be completed in 2022, the developments could bring new momentum to the region.
“Taken with the third track project, the opening of Grand Central Madison will enable a robust reverse commute, opening up jobs on Long Island to New York City residents in a big new way for really the first time in Long Island Rail Road history,” Rinaldi said.
The railroad proposes adding 274 trains to the schedule per weekday, increasing service by 41%. It would add 44 morning rush hour peak-direction trains to Manhattan, increasing service by 58%. It would add 60 afternoon peak-direction rush hour trains, increasing service by 62%. And Penn Station is gaining three LIRR trains in the afternoon rush.
“In one stroke, we are increasing service by 40%,” Rinaldi said.
And with Grand Central Madison, there would be a “second terminal” to absorb any overflow passengers should there be a disruption at Penn Station, minimizing the impact on commuters, Rinaldi said.
The changes enhance the capacity for reverse commuting and offers connectivity with Metro North and Amtrak out of Grand Central.
Yet the proposed draft schedule, released last week, has upset some commuters about the new timetables. Those passengers can voice concerns through a public meeting comments section on the MTA website. And the LIRR will host a virtual public meeting, where people can offer comments, on Wednesday, July 13, from 6 to 8 p.m.
Rinaldi called this moment in LIRR history “historic,” noting that it was a chance to “re-imagine and re-envision how we provide transportation” to the region.
Matt Cohen, LIA president and CEO said “2022 is a historic year for the Long Island Rail Road, and the launch of Grand Central Madison and the third track from Floral Park to Hicksville will spur economic growth, reverse commuting, and improve service for Long Islanders.”
Rinaldi stressed the importance of connectivity between the two railroads.
“The ability to use Grand Central as a transfer point between the two railroads all of a sudden makes it possible for businesses in Queens and Long Island to attract respective employees from the Bronx and points north,” she said.
And for a region that’s still recovering from the effects of COVID-19 on work and travel patterns, that connectivity “allows for greater discretionary and leisure travel between those two systems,” she pointed out.
“It’s going to attract Westchester residents to Long Island beaches and wineries, and it’s going to attract Long Island residents to Hudson Valley hiking destinations in the fall,” she said.
And, she said the new connectivity will make it much easier for Yankee fans to make their way to the stadium in the Bronx, and for Mets fans way up north to get to Citi Field.
David Manning, director of stakeholder relations at Brookhaven National Laboratory, said the completion of the third track and East Side Access will “improve our ability” to attract talent.
“This is a big deal,” he said, adding that the improvements offered “a real strategic advantage for us in trying to attract and compete with Google and Amazon and everybody else.”