Long Island Rail Road
|Long Island Rail Road|
The Long Island Rail Road provides electric and diesel rail service east-west throughout Long Island, New York.
|Locale||Long Island, New York|
|Dates of operation||
(PRR-operated from 1928 to 1949)
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
Jamaica Railroad Station
Jamaica, NY 11435
The Long Island Rail Road (reporting mark LI), legally known as the Long Island Rail Road Company and often abbreviated as the LIRR, is a commuter rail system in New York, stretching from Manhattan to the eastern tip of Suffolk County on Long Island. It is the second busiest commuter railroad in North America after its sister railroad, the Metro-North Railroad, serving nearly 335,000 passengers daily, and is one of the only commuter systems in the world that runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year-round. Established in 1834 and having operated continuously since then, it is the oldest U.S. railroad still operating under its original name and charter. There are 124 stations, and more than 700 miles (1,100 km) of track, on its two lines to the two forks of the island and eight major branches, with the passenger railroad system totaling 319 miles (513 km) of route. It is publicly owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, as MTA Long Island Rail Road. The current LIRR logo combines the circular MTA logo with the text Long Island Rail Road, and appears on the sides of trains. The LIRR is one of two commuter rail systems owned by the MTA; the other one is Metro-North Railroad.
The LIRR is the only commuter passenger railroad in the United States to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with significant off peak, weekend, and holiday service.
- History 1
- Major stations 2
Passenger lines and services 3
- Former branches 3.1
- Additional services 3.2
- Fare structure 4
- Train operations 5
- Power transmission 6
- Equipment 7
Named trains 8
- Current trains 8.1
- Former trains 8.2
Freight service 9
- Freight branches 9.1
- Planned service expansions 10
- Passenger issues 11
- Law enforcement 12
- Pension and disability fraud scandal 13
- See also 14
- References 15
- External links 16
The Long Island Rail Road Company was chartered in 1834 to provide a daily service between New York and Boston via a ferry connection between its Greenport, New York, terminal on Long Island's North Fork and Stonington, Connecticut. This service was superseded in 1849 by the land route through Connecticut that became part of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. The LIRR refocused its attentions towards serving Long Island, in competition with other railroads on the island. In the 1870s railroad president Conrad Poppenhusen and his successor Austin Corbin acquired all the railroads and consolidated them into the LIRR.
The LIRR was unprofitable for much of its history. In 1900, the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) bought a controlling interest as part of its plan for direct access to Manhattan which began on September 8, 1910. The wealthy PRR subsidized the LIRR during the first half of the new century, allowing expansion and modernization.
After the Second World War the downturn in the railroad industry and dwindling profits caused the PRR to stop subsidizing the LIRR, and the LIRR went into receivership in 1949. The State of New York, realizing how important the railroad was to the future of Long Island, began to subsidize the railroad in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1966 New York State bought the railroad's controlling stock from the PRR and put it under the newly formed Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Authority (renamed Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 1968). With MTA subsidies the LIRR modernized further, continuing to be the busiest commuter railroad in the United States.
The LIRR is one of the few railroads that has survived as an intact company from its original charter to the present day.
The LIRR operates out of three western terminals, in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. Jamaica Station in central Queens is the hub of all railroad activities. Expansion of the system into Grand Central Terminal is anticipated over the next few years. Major stations include:
- Pennsylvania Station, in Midtown Manhattan, is the busiest of the western terminals, serving almost 500 daily trains. It is reached via the Amtrak-owned East River Tunnels (the only LIRR-used trackage not owned by the LIRR) from the Main Line in Long Island City. The New York City Subway's 34th Street – Penn Station (IRT Broadway – Seventh Avenue Line) (1 2 3 trains) and 34th Street – Penn Station (IND Eighth Avenue Line) (A C E trains) stations are next to the terminal. It also connects LIRR with Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains.
- Atlantic Terminal, formerly Flatbush Avenue, in Downtown Brooklyn serves most other trains. It is next to the New York City Subway's Atlantic Avenue – Barclays Center station complex (2 3 4 5 B D N Q R trains), providing easy access to Lower Manhattan.
- A handful of weekday trains run to Hunterspoint Avenue or onward to Long Island City station on the East River in Long Island City. From Hunterspoint Avenue, the Hunters Point Avenue subway station (7 <7> trains) can be reached for Midtown Manhattan access. The same subway trains can also be reached from Long Island City station at the Vernon Boulevard – Jackson Avenue subway station. It also connects to the NY Waterway's East River Ferry to Midtown or Lower Manhattan.
- Jamaica station is a major hub station and transfer point in Jamaica, Queens. It has eight tracks and five platforms, plus yard and bypass tracks. Passengers can transfer between trains on all LIRR lines except the Port Washington Branch. Transfer is also made to separate facilities for three subway services at the Sutphin Boulevard – Archer Avenue – JFK station (E J Z trains), a number of bus routes, and the AirTrain automated electric rail system to JFK Airport. The railroad's headquarters are next to the station.
- Access to a fourth major terminal is currently under construction. As early as 2019, the LIRR intends to start service to Grand Central Terminal via the East Side Access; provision was made for this route on the lower level of the 63rd Street Tunnel under the East River, which carries the New York City Subway's IND 63rd Street Line (F train) on its upper level. The East Side Access project will reduce congestion while increasing the number of trains during peak hours. However, some February 2014 estimates push the opening date as far back as September 2024.
Passenger lines and services
The Long Island Rail Road system is made up of eleven passenger branches. Three main trunk lines, the Main Line, Montauk Branch, and Atlantic Branch, spin off eight smaller branches. For scheduling and advertising purposes some of these branches are further divided into sections such as the case with the Montauk Branch, which is known as the Babylon Branch service in the electrified portion of the line between Jamaica and Babylon, while the diesel service beyond Babylon to Montauk is referred to as the Montauk Branch service. All branches except the Port Washington Branch pass through Jamaica; the trackage west of Jamaica (except to Port Washington) is known as the City Terminal Zone. The City Terminal Zone includes portions of the Main Line and Atlantic and Montauk Branches as well as the Amtrak-owned East River Tunnels to Penn Station. The passenger lines are:
- The Main Line runs from Long Island City east to Greenport; trains using the Northeast Corridor and the East River Tunnels from New York Penn Station join the line at Sunnyside Yard. It is electrified west of Ronkonkoma; limited diesel train service runs from this point to Yaphank, Riverhead or Greenport. The services that run along this line are named after the branches they use; trains beyond Hicksville (where the Port Jefferson Branch splits), are known as Ronkonkoma Branch and the Greenport Branch trains.
- The Montauk Branch runs from Long Island City to Montauk, meeting the Main Line at Long Island City and Jamaica. It is electrified from Jamaica east to Babylon; only diesel trains use the "Lower Montauk" section west of Jamaica or the outer section east of Babylon. Only trains east of Babylon are considered part of the Montauk Branch service; the line from Lynbrook to Babylon carries Babylon Branch trains.
- The electrified Atlantic Branch runs from Atlantic Terminal in Downtown Brooklyn east to Jamaica, where it meets the Main Line, and then heads southeast to end at the Montauk Branch at Valley Stream. East of Valley Stream, the Far Rockaway Branch turns south, while the West Hempstead Branch turns northward.
- The electrified Port Washington Branch, the only one that does not serve Jamaica, branches from the Main Line west of Woodside, but runs alongside it until Winfield Junction, which is east of that station, and heads east and northeast to Port Washington. It only serves four stations in Nassau County.
- The Port Jefferson Branch branches from the Main Line at Hicksville, with electric service to Huntington and diesel service to Port Jefferson. Until 1938, it continued east to Wading River.
- The electrified Hempstead Branch branches from the Main Line east of Queens Village (does not curve away from Main Line until Floral Park) and runs east to Hempstead. At Garden City, the Garden City-Mitchel Field Secondary curves off and goes to Mitchel Field.
- The electrified West Hempstead Branch branches from the Montauk Branch at Valley Stream and runs northeast to West Hempstead, originally continuing to junction the Hempstead Branch and the Oyster Bay Branch at the Main Line. Currently, there is no weekend service on this branch, but the MTA is reviving weekend service starting on November 22, 2014.
- The Oyster Bay Branch splits from the Main Line at Mineola and heads north and east to Oyster Bay. The first section to East Williston is electrified; only diesel trains run along the majority of the line to Oyster Bay.
- The diesel-only Central Branch runs southeast from the Main Line at Bethpage to the Montauk Branch at Babylon, giving an alternate route to the Montauk Branch east of Babylon. The Central Branch used to continue west from Bethpage to include what is now the Garden City–Mitchel Field Secondary.
- The electrified Far Rockaway Branch splits from the Atlantic Branch at Valley Stream and runs south and southwest to Far Rockaway. It used to continue west along what is now the New York City Subway's IND Rockaway Line to Hammels and Rockaway Park.
- The electrified Long Beach Branch splits from the Atlantic Branch at Valley Stream but does not curve away from the Babylon Branch until just after Lynbrook, where it turns south to end at Long Beach.
The railroad has dropped a number of branches due to lack of ridership over the years. Some of these lines became part of the IND Rockaway Line of the New York City Subway, while others were downgraded to freight branches, and the rest abandoned entirely.
In addition to its daily commuter patronage, the LIRR also offers the following services:
- From April to October, the railroad adds stops at Mets – Willets Point station to trains on the Port Washington Branch to serve passengers traveling to see the New York Mets home games and the US Open (tennis). When the number of passengers requires it, additional trains may be added also.
- The railroad also operates extra trains during the summer season that cater to the Long Island beach trade. Special package ticket deals are offered to places like Long Beach, Jones Beach, the Hamptons, Montauk, and Greenport. Some of these packages require bus and ferry connections.
- From May through October, the railroad runs four daily trains to Belmont Park (two in each direction) during the racetrack's summer meets. Additionally, on the day of the Belmont Stakes horse race, the railroad runs extra trains to accommodate the large amount of spectators attending the event.
- One special non-passenger service offered by the railroad is the yearly operation of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus train between Long Island City and Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Garden City. Highly publicized by the LIRR, this event draws large crowds of spectators.
Like Metro-North Railroad and New Jersey Transit, the Long Island Rail Road fare system is based on the distance a passenger travels, as opposed to the New York City Subway, which has a flat rate throughout the system. The railroad is broken up into eight numbered fare zones. Zone 1 includes all of the city terminals and stations west of Jamaica. Zone 3 includes Jamaica and all stations east of Jamaica within the boundaries of New York City, except Far Rockaway and Belmont Park. Zones 4 and 7 include all the stations in Nassau County and Far Rockaway. Zones 9, 10, 12, and 14 includes all the stations in Suffolk County. Each zone contains many stations, and the same fare applies for travel between any station in the origin zone and any station in the destination zone.
Peak fares are charged during the week on trains that arrive at western terminals between 6 am and 10 am, and for trains that depart from western terminals between 4 pm and 8 pm. Any passenger holding an off peak ticket on a peak train is required to pay a step up fee. Passengers can buy tickets from ticket agents or ticket vending machines (TVMs) or on the train from conductors, but will incur an on-board penalty fee for doing so. This fee is waived for senior citizens and disabled passengers and for passengers who board from stations where there are no ticket offices or TVMs.
There are several types of tickets: one way, round trip, peak, off-peak, AM peak or off-peak senior/citizen disabled, peak child, and off-peak child. On off-peak trains, passengers can buy a family ticket for children who are accompanied by an 18 year old for $0.75 if bought from the station agent or TVM, $1.00 on the train. Senior citizen/disabled passengers traveling during the morning peak hours are required to pay the AM peak senior citizen/disabled rate. This rate is not charged during PM peak hours.
Commuters can also buy a peak or off-peak ten trip ride, a weekly unlimited or an unlimited monthly pass. Monthly passes are good on any train regardless of the time of day, within the fare zones specified on the pass.
On weekends, the railroad offers a special reduced-fare CityTicket, introduced in 2004, for passengers who travel within Zones 1 and 3 (i.e. within New York City). CityTickets can only be bought from ticket agents or machines and used on the day of purchase. They are not valid for travel to Far Rockaway because it is in Zone 4 and the Far Rockaway Branch passes through Nassau County. It is also not valid for travel to the Belmont Park station, which is only open for special events. All passengers going to Belmont Park must buy a special ticket to go from Jamaica to Belmont Park (or vice versa), as weekly and monthly passes are not accepted at Belmont Park.
During the summer the railroad offers special summer package ticket deals to places such as Long Beach, Jones Beach, the Hamptons, Montauk, and Greenport. Passengers traveling to the Hamptons and Montauk on the Cannonball can reserve a seat in the all-reserved Parlor Cars. The LIRR suggests booking in advance based on limited availability.
The LIRR is relatively isolated from the rest of the national rail system. In only two locations does it connect with other railroads:
West of Harold Interlocking in Sunnyside, Queens LIRR trains enter Amtrak territory (the Northeast Corridor) leading to the East River Tunnels. When this track was owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad, trains of the PRR connected to the LIRR at Penn Station. During the 1920s and 1930s a through sleeper was carried by PRR and LIRR trains from Pittsburgh to Montauk, called the 'Sunrise Special'.
In Glendale, Queens the LIRR connects with CSX’s Fremont Secondary, which leads to the Hell Gate Bridge and New England, however, once trains leave the secondary they enter LIRR territory and fall under the guidance of the LIRR Book of Rules.
All movements on the LIRR are under the control of the Movement Bureau in Jamaica, which gives orders to the towers that control a specific portion of the railroad. Movements in Amtrak territory are controlled by Penn Station Control Center or PSCC, run jointly by the LIRR and Amtrak. The PSCC controls as far east as Harold interlocking, in the Sunnyside area of Queens. The PSCC replaced several towers. The Jamaica Control Center (new in the third quarter of 2010) controls from there east through the Jamaica terminal by direct control of interlockings. This replaced several towers in Jamaica including Jay and Hall towers at the west and east ends of Jamaica station respectively. East of there, lineside towers control the various switches and signals under the direction of the dispatchers in Jamaica.
Nearly all the lines and all passenger rolling stock is equipped for cab signalling, which displays the block signal governing movement of trains in the cab. All passenger rolling stock is equipped with Automatic Speed Control (ASC), which enforces the speed limit dictated by the cab signal if the engineer fails to comply with it, by a penalty brake application. This feature greatly enhances safety.
On many of the lines, there are no intermediate wayside signals between the interlockings: operation is solely by cab signal. Wayside signals remain at interlockings.
The LIRR's electrified lines are powered by 750 V DC third rail with the contact shoe running along the top of the rail, similar to the New York City Subway and PATH trains. Metro-North Railroad uses under-running third rail on its electrified trackage and overhead catenary on the New Haven Line.
The LIRR's electric fleet consists of 836 M7 and 170 M3 electric multiple unit cars in married pairs, meaning each car needs the other one to operate, with each car containing its own engineer's cab. The trainsets typically range up to 12 cars long. In September 2013, MTA announced that the LIRR would procure new M9 railcars from Kawasaki starting in 2016. They will replace the M3s, and expand the railroad's electric fleet.
The LIRR also uses 134 C3 Multilevel coachess powered by 23 DE30AC diesel-electric locomotives and 21 DM30AC dual-mode locomotives. They are used mostly on non-electrified territories, including the Port Jefferson, Oyster Bay, Montauk, and Greenport Branches.
For most of its history LIRR has served commuters, but it had many named trains, some with all-first class seating, parlor cars, and full bar service. Few of them lasted past World War II, but some names were revived during the 1950s and 1960s as the railroad expanded its east end parlor car service with luxury coaches and Pullman cars from railroads that were discontinuing their passenger trains.
- The Cannonball, a Friday-only 12-car train to Montauk running May through October, with two all-reserved parlor cars with full bar service. Since May 24, 2013 it has originated at Penn Station with a Sunday evening return from Montauk; only the westward train stops at Jamaica. The two rear cars ("Hamptons Reserve Service") have reserved seating and exclusive bar service. The name is a nod to the Cannon Ball, the all-year train to Amagansett/Montauk from the 1890s until the 1970s. It carried parlor cars and standard-fare coaches and ran weekday afternoons from Long Island City, then from Penn Station until 1951.
- Fisherman's Special (1932–1950s) from Long Island City to Canoe Place Station and Montauk via Jamaica, April through October, terminating at Canoe Place in April, extended to Montauk in May. Served Long Island fishing trade.
- Peconic Bay Express / Shinnecock Bay Express (1926–1950) from Long Island City to Greenport and Montauk, Saturday only, express to Greenport and Montauk. Discontinued during World War II though revived for a few seasons afterwards.
- Shelter Island Express (1901–1903, 1923–1942) from Long Island City to Greenport, Friday-only summer express that connected to Shelter Island ferries.
- Sunrise Special (1922–1942) ran during the summer, NY Penn to Montauk on Fridays and westbound Mondays. In summer 1926 it ran daily. All parlor car (no coaches) from 1932 to 1937.
The LIRR and other railroads that became part of the system have always had freight service, though this has diminished. The process of shedding freight service accelerated with the acquisition of the railroad by New York State.
In recent years there has been some appreciation of the need for better railroad freight service in New York City and on Long Island. Both areas are primarily served by trucking for freight haulage, an irony in a region with the most extensive rail transit service in the Americas as well as the worst traffic conditions. Proposals for a Cross-Harbor Rail Tunnel for freight have languished more than a century.
In May 1997, freight service was franchised on a 20-year term to the New York and Atlantic Railway (NYAR), a short line railroad owned by the Anacostia and Pacific Company. It has its own equipment and crews, but uses the rail facilities of the LIRR. To the east, freight service operates to the end of the West Hempstead Branch, to Huntington on the Port Jefferson Branch, to Bridgehampton on the Montauk Branch, and to Riverhead on the Main Line. On the western end it provides service on the surviving freight-only tracks of the LIRR: the Bay Ridge and Bushwick branches; the "Lower Montauk" between Jamaica and Long Island City; and to an interchange connection at Fresh Pond Junction in Queens with the CSX, Canadian Pacific, and Providence and Worcester railroads.
Some non-electrified lines are used only for freight:
- The Garden City-Mitchel Field Secondary is a short remnant of the Central Branch that splits from the Hempstead Branch at Garden City, running to Uniondale near Hofstra University and Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. This branch does not host any NYAR service. This branch is used by the Ringling Bros. Circus to transport animals, staff and equipment to the Nassau Coliseum.
- The Bushwick Branch runs west from the Montauk Branch at Maspeth to Bushwick Terminal. This was a passenger branch until 1924.
- The Bay Ridge Branch runs south and west from the Montauk Branch at Fresh Pond to Bay Ridge. At Fresh Pond, it meets CSX's Fremont Secondary, which goes over the Hell Gate Bridge towards Upstate New York and New England. This branch had a passenger service until 1924.
Planned service expansions
- In 2023, the LIRR expects to complete the long-anticipated East Side Access project, allowing trains to access Grand Central Terminal.
- In 2019, the LIRR expects to complete a project to add a second track along its Main Line between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma to relieve crowding. Currently, there is only double track from Bethpage to the site of the former Republic Station (east of Farmingdale), and again from Deer Park to Brentwood. Passing sidings exist east of Wyandanch, and at Central Islip.
- The Third Main Line Track and electrification expansions that were planned in conjunction with the commencement of service to Grand Central Terminal were placed on hold in 2008 since local politicians in the affected areas, between Floral Park and Hicksville, were opposed to the plan and expressed concerns about the effects of the construction and train noise from eventual increase in service. The third track on the Main Line would aid in relieving the crowding on the Main Line which is expected to grow after the East Side Access project is complete. It also includes the elimination of several grade crossings.
The LIRR has a long history of rocky relations with its passengers, especially daily commuters. Various commuter advocacy groups have been formed to try to represent those interests, in addition to the state mandated LIRR Commuters Council.
One criticism of the LIRR is that it has not improved service to the "east end" of Long Island as the twin forks continue to grow in popularity as a year round tourist and residential destination. Demand is evidenced by flourishing for-profit bus services such as the Hampton Jitney and the Hampton Luxury Liner and the early formative stages of a new East End Transportation Authority. Local politicians have joined the public outcry for the LIRR to either improve the frequency of east end services, or turn the operation over to a local transportation authority.
Critics claim that the on-time performance (OTP) calculated by the LIRR is manipulated to be artificially high. Because the LIRR does not release any raw timing data nor does it have independent (non-MTA) audits it is impossible to verify this claim, or the accuracy of the current On Time Performance measurement. The "percentage" measure is used by many other US passenger railroads but the criticism over accuracy is specific to the LIRR. As defined by the LIRR, a train is "on time" if it arrives at a station within 5 minutes and 59 seconds of the scheduled time. The criterion was 4 minutes and 59 seconds until the LIRR changed it because of a bug in their computer systems. Critics believe the OTP measure does not reflect what commuters experience on a daily basis. The LIRR publishes the current OTP in a monthly booklet called TrainTalk. TrainTalk was previously known as "Keeping Track."
A more accurate way to measure delays and OTP has been proposed. Called the "Passenger Hours Delayed" index it can measure total person-hours of a specific delay. This would be useful in comparing performance of specific days or incidents, day-to-day (or week-to-week) periods, something the current measure cannot do. This 'PHD' index measure is used by some transportation research organizations and would be more meaningful to commuters. As of July 2009 it has not been adopted. The two methods are not mutually exclusive and could be kept and published simultaneously.
2007 ridership was 86.1 million, up 4.9% over 2006. The all time highest ridership was in 1929, when 119 million passengers rode 1.89 billion passenger miles.
Pension and disability fraud scandal
A New York Times investigation in 2008 showed that 25% of LIRR employees who had retired since 2000 filed for disability payments from the federal Railroad Retirement Board and 97% of them were approved to receive disability pension. The total collected was more than $250,000,000 over eight years. As a result, Railroad Retirement agents from Chicago inspected the Long Island office of the Railroad Retirement Board on September 23, 2008. New York Governor David Paterson issued a statement calling for Congress to conduct a full review of the board's mission and daily activities. Officials at the board's headquarters responded to the investigation stating that all occupational disability annuities were issued in accordance with applicable laws.
On November 17, 2008, a former LIRR pension manager was arrested and charged with official misconduct for performing outside work without permission. However, these charges were all dismissed for "no merit" by Supreme Court Judge Kase on December 11, 2009 on the grounds that the prosecution had misled the grand jury in the indictment.
A report produced in September 2009 by the Government Accountability Office stated that the rate at which retirees were rewarded disability claims was above the norm for the industry in general and indicated "troubling" practices that may indicate fraud, such as the use of a very small group of physicians in making the diagnosis.
Another series of arrests on October 27, 2011 included two doctors and a former union official.
According to court documents, from 1998 through 2011 79% of LIRR retirees obtained federal disability when they retired. On August 6, 2013, a doctor and two consultants were found guilty in connection with the accusations and sentenced to prison.
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- MTA Long Island Rail Road