The MTA has pledged to work with the Town of North Hempstead to improve service on the Port Washington line, after Long Island Rail Road riders expressed their opposition to proposed schedule changes that would add several minutes to their daily commutes, officials said Tuesday.
The potential changes come as the LIRR gears up for service to its new Manhattan terminal, Grand Central Madison, set to begin in December. Although the railroad is adding several morning and rush-hour trips on the line, trains would make added stops at Queens stations, lengthening some travel times by up to eight minutes.
Hours before a planned news conference at the LIRR’s Port Washington station organized by her office, State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) spoke with a representative from the office of Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman and CEO Janno Lieber, who made it clear that the MTA is “open to negotiations” on how to keep some rush-hour express trains pegged for elimination.
In a statement, MTA spokeswoman Joanna Flores confirmed that the agency is “prepared to work with the Town” to “provide even more service” on the branch. But, Flores said, the improvements would be contingent on the town supporting efforts by the railroad to expand train storage capacity at Port Washington. Town officials previously fought those efforts because they would have resulted in fewer parking spots for commuters.
North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jennifer DeSena, speaking at the news conference Tuesday, said it would be “a good idea to revisit” the LIRR’s expansion plans at Port Washington.
"If there is one thing we need to remember it's this: There’s always room for compromise," North Hempstead Town Council member Veronica Lurvey said. "We must work with the MTA towards a pragmatic solution that serves the residents’ best interests."
Kaplan and Assemb. Gina Sillitti (D-Manorhaven) said a survey conducted over three weeks by their offices to gather feedback from commuters drew more than 2,200 responses. Sillitti said the “overwhelming majority” of responses were in opposition to the proposed schedule changes.
Among those concerned over the extended travel times is Ariana Parasco, of Port Washington, who said the 35-minute express train rides to and from Manhattan were a key reason why she moved to the community. Losing that service, she said, is “infuriating.”
“The LIRR is saying that it’s just a few more minutes. But a few more minutes turns into 10, and 20 and 30 minutes when you’re factoring in transfer times, when you’re transferring and walking to the subway . . . It’s just taking time away from my family,” Parasco said. “We pay a premium to live here . . . and I want to maintain what we’re paying for.”
Speakers at Tuesday’s news conference urged commuters to participate in a virtual public meeting being held by the MTA on Wednesday, from 6 to 8 p.m., to discuss the proposed schedule changes. More information is available at mta.info.