The Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council (LIRRCC) conducted a Spring 2023 survey following the service changes implemented after the opening of Grand Central Madison. Riders shared over 450 individual accounts of their trips, ranging in intensity and detail. Almost 60% of respondents report now having to transfer, up from 34% before the schedule changes. Reported commute times rose by an average of eleven minutes from 57 minutes to 1 hour, 8 minutes.
Grand Central Madison is Popular with Midtown Workers
Commuters in the vicinity of Grand Central Madison and along the Lexington Avenue Line report that they now have a one seat ride or a shorter last-mile journey than they did previously.
Flexibility for East Side and Bronx Commuters, and Through Commuting
Now that Midtown has two LIRR terminals, riders appreciate that they have more transit options on the East Side and West Side, allowing them more flexibility in their travel routines.
Added Service at formerly “local” stops.
Adding more stops at stations previously bypassed during certain times of day means riders who use those local stations have seen an increase in service from trains which now stop more frequently.
End of Cross-Platform and Timed Transfers at Jamaica
Trains are no longer held at Jamaica to await a transfer, and are no longer guaranteed to show up on adjacent tracks. Transfers are inconsistent and physically demanding, and not guaranteed. Because most trains to midtown are now alternating between Grand Central and Penn, riders consider their options have been halved, so their wait times have doubled as they wait for their direct train. Riders were already resistant to change at Jamaica, and the new practices look to be increasing that based on open-ended survey responses.
Addition of local stops onto many trains, and the end of trains skipping Jamaica
After the schedule change, many trains began making more local stops, or express and skip-stop patterns on branches were altered. Some rides got longer, and few if any trains bypass Jamaica in either direction.
Service Gap Complaints/Insufficient Rush Hour Service
Riders across all branches frequently reference individual trains in their complaints – in many cases, it’s in regard to a gap in service that was introduced with the new schedule, or that their train now requires them to transfer. With the railroad having several bad days where service broke down during rush hour, and the fact that Jamaica transfers are more stressful, passengers are mistrustful of any transfer.
Overloaded trains into and out of Penn Station/Train length woes
Riders uniformly complain about crowded trains into and out of Penn Station and reduced outbound service. Many of these Penn trains had cars removed during the schedule change, and were periodically lengthened over time. Still, standing room only conditions are frequently referenced. Grand Central passengers don’t share these complaints. Penn commuters continue to demand more frequent service to their individual branches and longer trains.
Before February 27, 34% of riders (out of a sample of 345) stated they had to transfer to get to their destination. After February 27, 59% of riders (out of a sample of 397) stated they had to transfer occasionally or all the time.