From CBS New York
PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. -- The Long Island Rail Road's long-awaited East Side Access is coming.
By years end, passengers will finally be able to ride directly to Manhattan's Grand Central Station terminal.
But what's supposed to be a major time-saver is going to add to commute times for one popular branch.
As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported Tuesday, high demand express trains could be eliminated.
It's the gold standard of the LIRR. The Port Washington branch zips along the North Shore's Gold Coast from Great Neck to Penn Station in 34 minutes, but draft schedules for when East Side Access begins shows that speedy commute will get longer.
"A 20-30 percent increase in travel time, so it's no small matter," Port Washington resident Ian Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen is one of many derailed by the proposed elimination of express trains to the Port Washington branch Nassau stations adding at least four Queens stops -- Little Neck, Douglaston, Bayside, and Woodside.
"After 15 years of construction and something in the order of $10 billion, to say we are dismayed would be an understatement," Rasmussen said.
The time increase is only up to eight minutes, and will provide more service to Queens, but critics say Queens riders have other transit options, including subways and buses. With only half the trains still Penn Station-bound, plus inevitable delays, one commuting mom said she is is bracing for less family time.
"The LIRR says it's just a few more minutes, but a few more minutes turns into 10 and 20 and 30 when you're factoring in transferring time, walking to the subway. It does have a massive impact on our quality of life," Ariana Parasco said.
Elected officials are urging commuters to weigh in at a virtual MTA meeting on Wednesday and submit comments before schedules are finalized. East Side Access is great news, they say, but not at the expense of North Shore commuters.
"Many residents moved here to this neighborhood because of the commute to Manhattan. It's incredibly quick, a desirable train line," state Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti said.
"We will be fighting to get our express train back on track. They are open to negotiations. We are talking to see how we can actually restore some of those express trains," state Sen. Anna Kaplan added.
The MTA explained its schedules were rebuilt to add capacity -- to the reverse commute, too. Spokesperson Joana Flores said in a statement, "The MTA's multibillion dollar investment to the Long Island Rail Road will increase overall service by 40 percent, provide hundreds of thousands of Long Island commuters with more service options and improved service reliability, and has improved on-time performance. Port Washington branch morning rush hour service is increasing by 70 percent and by 43 percent during the evening rush hour under the new schedules. We appreciate the leadership of Sen. Kaplan and we are prepared to work with the town, should it be willing to reconsider its earlier denial of storage space for additional trains that could provide even more service."
North Hempstead has long opposed storage at its small stations. Now, it will revisit that.
Officials and commuters will urge the public to take action and make their voices heard on the proposal by taking a survey by Sen. Kaplan and Assemblywoman Sillitti, and by speaking out at a virtual public hearing on the proposed changes being hosted this Wednesday by the MTA from 6-8 p.m. Participants can join virtually.