For commuters who take the Long Island Rail Road’s Port Washington Branch to and from offices in Manhattan every day, getting to work won’t be as bad as coming home during the upcoming “summer of hell.”
Three rush hour trains — one in the morning and two in the evening — are eliminated from the new schedule slated to take effect on July 10. Three evening rush hour trains that normally would emanate out of Penn Station will instead operate out of Hunterspoint Avenue in Long Island City.
These changes and others throughout the LIRR system are taking effect on July 10 as Amtrak embarks on emergency track work at Penn Station following a spate of problems that led to service disruptions. The LIRR will lose access to a number of Penn Station tracks, forcing it to rearrange its operating schedule and find transit alternatives to keep thousands of riders moving every day.
The lone morning rush hour cancellation on the Port Washington branch is the 8:04 a.m. express train out of Great Neck, which stops at Little Neck, Douglaston and Bayside, then runs express service to Woodside and Penn Station. Customers will need to either wake up earlier to catch a 7:55 a.m. express train out of Little Neck (which stops at Douglaston at 7:57 a.m. and Bayside at 8 a.m., then runs express to Woodside and Penn Station) or wait for the 8:24 a.m. express out of Great Neck, which will be due in Little Neck at 8:27 a.m., Douglaston at 8:30 a.m. and Bayside at 8:33 a.m.
During the afternoon, however, Port Washington line commuters will lose two express trains that currently operate out of Penn Station at 5:26 p.m. and 5:50 p.m. These trains stop at Woodside, then run express to Bayside before making all local stops to Great Neck. A third express train — which departs Penn Station at 5:26 p.m., stops at Woodside and then runs express all the way to Great Neck — will be completely cancelled.
These express trains will be replaced by a new express train that will depart the Hunterspoint Avenue station at 5:17 p.m., arrive at Woodside at 5:26 p.m., and then run express to Bayside before making all local stops to Great Neck, where it will be due to arrive at 5:45 p.m.
Two other westbound trains will emanate out of Hunterspoint Avenue: one at 4:49 p.m. and the other at 6:45 p.m. These trains will make all local stops to Great Neck.
The loss of the three evening express trains will lead many northeast Queens residents to either use local trains operating out of Penn Station or take the 7 train to Woodside-61 Street to pick up LIRR trains operating out of Long Island City. The MTA will be cross-honoring fares for LIRR monthly and weekly ticket-holders for the project’s duration.
The silver lining in this commuting cloud shines for commuters who use the Port Washington branch out of the Flushing-Main Street, Murray Hill (where only the first/last four cars platform), Broadway and Auburndale stops. These stations are served by local trains that are unaffected by the schedule changes.
Even so, with commuter frustration expected to reach a boiling state this summer, several elected officials in northeast Queens think the LIRR and the MTA aren’t doing enough to accommodate riders in the region. State Senator Tony Avella called on the MTA to take additional contingency measures, while Assemblyman Ed Braunstein called for an increase in express bus service to and from northeast Queens.