Governor Kathy Hochul is joined by MTA Chair & CEO Janno Lieber and Metro-North President/LIRR Interim President Catherine Rinaldi at Grand Central Terminal on Monday, May 31, 2022 to announce the branding of “Grand Central Madison.” The major capital construction project, previously known as “East Side Access,” brings LIRR service to Grand Central with a new concourse extending west toward Madison Avenue. (Kevin P. Coughlin / Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)
LIRR Service to the East Side of Manhattan Remains on Target to Begin This Year
Opening of Terminal to Enable Era-Defining LIRR Service Increases of 40 Percent, Enhance Reverse-Commuting, Off-Peak and Discretionary Travel and Decongest Penn Station
Proposed Timetables Are First Comprehensive Schedule Rewrite in Decades; Include Significant Improvements in Reverse Commute and Off-Peak Service
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that the 700,000-square-foot Long Island Rail Road terminal nearing completion below Grand Central Terminal and Madison Avenue from 43rd Street to 48th Street will be named Grand Central Madison. The new name Grand Central Madison harkens to the station’s location nestled underneath Grand Central Terminal and the famed Madison Avenue corridor. LIRR train service to the new terminal, representing the largest expansion of LIRR service in the 112 years since the original Pennsylvania Station and its East River Tunnels opened on September 8, 1910, remains on pace to begin before the end of the year. The LIRR will release draft timetables this week showing the new service in advance of public information sessions.
The new terminal is the largest passenger rail terminal to be built in the United States since the 1950s, and the $11.1 billion infrastructure project to connect the Long Island Rail Road to the East Side will provide incalculable benefits for the entire downstate region and its visitors, enhancing seamless regional travel not just during rush hours but for reverse-peak, discretionary and off-peak travel in a post-pandemic environment.
“This is an exciting, historic moment for New York State, Long Island, and the MTA as New Yorkers are just months away from being able to seamlessly ride a train between East Midtown and Long Island,” Governor Hochul said. “Grand Central Madison – the largest new passenger rail terminal built since the 1950’s – will be a game-changer for Long Island, allowing the LIRR to dramatically expand service and operate more reliably for commuters, and reducing overcrowding at Penn Station. We will continue to build back stronger from the pandemic and deliver state-of-the-art, 21st century infrastructure worthy of New Yorkers.”
“The MTA has worked hard over the past four years – including throughout the pandemic – to hold to the 2022 opening date,” said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. “We reimagined project management to ensure adjacent contracts were carefully coordinated to avoid delay-causing conflicts; simplified the change-order process; empowered project managers and transformed an insufficiently detailed schedule with only 8,500 activities into 40,000 distinct items and activities that could be tracked and completed.”
“The Long Island Rail Road workforce and contractors worked safely throughout the pandemic to keep this project on track, and I want to applaud their commitment,” said MTA Construction & Development President Jamie Torres-Springer. “The completion of this project will increase LIRR peak hour capacity, and in combination with the LIRR Third Track project, make a true reverse commute between Manhattan and Long Island a reality.”
The opening of Grand Central Madison, along with a new third track on the LIRR Main Line that is on schedule to open in 2022, will allow the LIRR to increase service systemwide by a staggering 40 percent on morning peak service, and dramatically increase reverse peak service. It will be the LIRR’s first entry point into Manhattan that isn’t shared with other railroads, meaning greater reliability because of less exposure to service disruptions, and more flexibility for trains and riders to work around any that do occur.
Grand Central Madison will reduce passenger congestion at Penn Station, affording the chance for trains from Metro-North Railroad to enter later this decade. The new terminal will move some LIRR trains to the East Side, reducing congestion at Penn Station and allow for a complete reconstruction to open it up to natural light and build a more expansive unified passenger concourse with intuitive wayfinding, better access to train departure information, exits, entrances, and paths to tracks.
The new terminal will have eight tracks and four platforms on two new levels below the existing lower level of Grand Central Terminal, all designed with passive wayfinding to help orient returning users through subtle color shifts by location. All tracks and platforms are fully separated from Metro-North Railroad, ensuring that neither railroad causes delays to the other. The terminal will feature real-time digital signage, robust cell service and Wi-Fi, 25 retail storefronts, four new entrances to the street level along Madison Avenue between 43rd Street and 48th Street and two new entrances into the existing spaces of Grand Central and two to Grand Central’s north end passageways at 45th and 47th Streets.
“This is an exciting, historic moment for New York State, Long Island, and the MTA as New Yorkers are just months away from being able to seamlessly ride a train between East Midtown and Long Island.“Governor Kathy Hochul
Crews from MTA Construction & Development, MTA Long Island Rail Road and contractors are testing systems including signals, switches, electrical power, customer service data, and HVAC to ensure all is working properly before train service begins, and the LIRR is instructing train operating crews about the layout and operations of the new terminal.
LIRR to Release Draft Timetables
This week, the LIRR will release draft timetables for every LIRR branch showing proposed systemwide service following the opening of the LIRR’s Grand Central Madison terminal. The LIRR will hold a series of virtual public information sessions next month to gather public input on the timetables.
“Our service planners used the opportunity of the opening of service to Grand Central Madison to take a completely fresh look at the schedules, something that has not been done in more than 30 years,” said LIRR Interim President Catherine Rinaldi. “We want the public to be able to see these draft timetables months before service starts, and plan to share final timetables this fall.”
Constraints that have long stifled LIRR capacity area are being lifted thanks to a near doubling of track capacity to Manhattan, a third track on the LIRR Main Line, and the opening of Grand Central Madison, the largest new rail terminal to open in the United States since the 1950s. The new timetables offer a breathtaking level of fine-grained detail on the most dramatic LIRR service increases in generations.
Systemwide Service Increases Mean More Trains During AM Rush, PM Rush, Reverse Peak, Off-Peak
The timetables propose to increase the overall number of LIRR trains by 40 percent. The number of morning rush hour trains would increase slightly more than 40 percent and the number of afternoon/evening rush hour trains would increase by nearly 65 percent. Thanks to the new terminal and the LIRR Main Line Expansion Project (Third Track), reverse peak service would dramatically improve to Ronkonkoma, Huntington and all intermediate stops, as well as from Brooklyn, where service to Jamaica is increasing.
The timetables will improve the spacing of trains on many branches, reducing large gaps in service. During the off-peak hours of middays, evenings, and weekends, Huntington and Ronkonkoma will both have service to Manhattan every 30 minutes, with weekend Ronkonkoma Branch service doubling with the completion of the Double Track Project, that introduced 13 miles of a brand-new second track between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma, and the Main Line Expansion Project.
On the West Hempstead Branch, trains will run every hour during off-peak periods, twice as frequently as they do today, and the need to change trains at Valley Stream is eliminated. Stations in Queens will see service increases throughout the day, in both peak and off-peak periods.
“Change at Jamaica” Evolves
To reduce delays that can occur currently at Jamaica Station while trains wait for a connecting train, and to allow the LIRR to move significantly more trains through the station, trains will no longer have scheduled connections at Jamaica.
Manhattan-bound customers at rush hour on most branches, and all day on the busiest branches, will find plenty of options to take them to the terminal of their choosing without the need to change trains. For those who do need to transfer, all trains will now make station stops at Jamaica to reduce wait times. Once the schedules are finalized in the fall, the TrainTime app will be updated to provide transfer recommendations.
Service to Brooklyn to Increase by 28 Percent
In Brooklyn, trains will run approximately every 12 minutes in both directions during peak hours and every 20 minutes during off-peak hours for an overall 28 percent increase in daily trains. Every train will make stops at Nostrand Avenue and East New York. Most Brooklyn trains will originate and terminate at Jamaica using the new Platform F, but the LIRR will retain some through service with peak and off-peak trains on the West Hempstead Branch and peak trains on the Babylon and Hempstead Branches. Most customers on the Far Rockaway and Hempstead Branches, whose trains currently primarily serve Brooklyn, will now have direct service to Manhattan all day.
LIRR to Hold Information Sessions on New Timetables
The LIRR will hold four virtual customer information sessions about the proposed new timetables at the following dates and times:
- June 23 – 6-7 p.m.
- June 30 – 6-7 p.m.
- July 7 – 6-7 p.m.
- July 13 – 6-8 p.m.
Representative Carolyn Maloney said, “The long-awaited East Side Access project – connecting Long Island Rail Road service to the East Side of Manhattan – is now just steps away from becoming a reality. The service will change the way Long Islanders commute into the City, expand East Side service, and further promote ridership as New York’s economy returns. I am proud to have been the federal partner in this project working with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York State to see this project completed.”
State Senator Brad Hoylman said, “I’m thrilled at the Governor’s announcement that the newly-named Grand Central Madison will keep its original opening date of 2022. Extensive and reliable mass transit continues to be what sets New York and Midtown Manhattan apart from other world cities and Grand Central Madison will continue to build on this competitive advantage by providing a link to Long Island and reducing crowding for riders at Penn Station. I’m extremely grateful to the construction and MTA workers who’ve made this progress possible, especially during the difficult COVID-19 pandemic.”
Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said, “Grand Central Madison will be a huge boon for the East Side in addition to alleviating congestion at Penn Station. Improving transit into Manhattan will help drive local economic recovery, especially for a business corridor that has been so battered by the pandemic. This terminal and the increased service also incentivize less car travel to Manhattan, which is a win for the environment and quality of life.”
Council Member Keith Powers said, “I am thrilled that new LIRR service at Grand Central Madison will be coming to Midtown Manhattan this year. New York City is constantly in motion, and our recovery is contingent on quick, reliable, and accessible transportation options for all. I commend Governor Hochul and the MTA for their efforts to prioritize public transit in our city, look forward to the terminal’s completion.”