As the “Summer of Hell” approaches for Long Island Rail Road riders, northeast Queens commuters are destined to end up in purgatory.
Where are the alternative travel plans announced by the governor and the MTA for the beleaguered riders at the six stops from Little Neck to Flushing who will be stuck with a reduced LIRR schedule, slow buses or a nearly impossible drive to Manhattan?
Right across the border in Nassau, LIRR’s rush-hour customers will be offered free ferry and bus service to Manhattan and even park-and-ride options, but not the suffering souls of northeast Queens. The borough doesn’t warrant a mention for these perks except as the source of additional ferry service from Hunters Point in Long Island City to 34th Street.
As Amtrak repairs years of neglected maintenance to Penn Station and its tunnels, LIRR schedules will be altered, trains will be canceled and hard-pressed passengers will spill onto the city’s chaotically overcrowded subways. The Port Washington line, the busiest of the LIRR’s 11 branches, is the only route that does not connect with Jamaica, where the E, J and Z subways terminate. The straphangers’ paradise in northeast Queens ends at Flushing Main Street, the last stop for the beleaguered No. 7 line.
In a letter to New York City Transit and the LIRR, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) complained that train riders in his district have been neglected in the MTA’s planning for six weeks of Amtrak work starting July 8.
“As you are keenly aware, commuters in this area only have the option of LIRR service on the 7 train at Flushing Main Street to commute into Manhattan,” said Avella, who pointed out that the 7 is already operating at 94 percent of capacity.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who coined the phrase “Summer of Hell” for the transit nightmare awaiting Penn Station users, got fare cuts averaging 25 percent for LIRR commuters whose trains are diverted to hubs at the Hunterspoint Avenue hub in LIC, Jamaica and Atlantic Terminal to avoid the Manhattan terminal.
The question is how do northeast Queens customers get there? Free subway transfers to the 7 will be offered at Hunterspoint, but the Port Washington line doesn’t stop there. What about providing ferry service from the Bayside and Flushing marinas to Manhattan? Add some express buses to Manhattan and let northeast Queens riders cash in on what the MTA calls its “robust mitigation plan.”
Everyday the LIRR carries 300,000 passengers, including a significant number who line the Port Washington platforms in Queens. The MTA’s blatant disregard for northeast Queens commuters stings and will not be forgotten.