NEW YORK - New week, better Long Island Railroad commute? Maybe.
One week ago, full service began at the long-awaited Grand Central Madison. The LIRR heralded the terminal as revolutionizing commutes by bringing commuters to Manhattan’s East Side – and it did that for some. But others complained.
Social media was littered with images of overcrowded trains and harried commuters practically trampling each other to make connections at Jamaica Station.
In response, the LIRR has announced that it is adding more trains running more often to to cut down on commute times and crowding, but for some, it's not enough.
Long Island officials gathered Monday to denounce the long-awaited, $11B station.
"I don't remember anyone here asking for East Side access," said State Senator Jack Martins. "East Side access was something that was a Long Island Rail Road, MTA project that they forced upon us."
In order to launch the new station, MTA took trains from other lines, resulting in fewer trains to and from Penn Station, Jamaica, and Atlantic terminal, and they came less often. The trains that were available were often overcrowded.
"A couple of times I just had to wait for the next train because it wasn’t worth it trying to sardine in," said one commuter.
And if a commuter couldn't fit inside or missed the train, they had to wait.
"It seems like everything is going to Grand Central," another commuter told FOX 5 NY. "I’m late every morning now."
"I got home after 8:30," said another. "I’m a mom. That’s a 12-hour day."
New York Governor Kathy Hochul has announced that she is working to fix the botched rollout, with new adjustments being made by the LIRR.
First, the LIRR is lengthening trains that serve Penn station, adding cars to the trains that were packed last week.
Second, they are increasing rush-hour service between Jamaica and Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, ensuring trains are coming every 8 to 9 minutes, down from 12.
Third, they are putting in a platform controller at Jamaica to help riders make the next train.
But the bigger concern is how MTA did not anticipate these issues during the 20 years it took to build Grand Central Madison, with the LIRR admitting it relied on pre-COVID projections.
"We want this to be a positive for our customers last week, it was not and we are doing our best to make this a better experience for all customers," said Catherine Rinaldi, LIRR Interim President.
The MTA is aware they have to reevaluate the numbers and will focus on the rest of the customers who still want to use Penn station and make sure they’re providing a quality customer service experience. These issues come as the Governor is proposing an $800 million dollar MTA Mobility Payroll Tax Hike.