BY JAMES FARRELL
Two state lawmakers are preemptively looking for mass transit relief in northeast Queens this summer, especially with upcoming track reconstruction at Penn Station expected to upend commutes to and from Manhattan in the coming months.
In a June 15 letter to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) requested more rush-hour service for express buses in northeast Queens until the project is completed.
“As you are aware, transit options are limited for residents of northeast Queens who travel into Manhattan and express buses that serve my district are already crowded during rush hour,” Braunstein said. “Since many of my constituents might prefer to travel by express bus during the reconstruction project, I request that you add additional service during rush hour until the project is completed for express bus routes serving northeast Queens, including QM2, QM3, QM5, QM20, QM32 and QM35 buses.”
Braunstein also requested additional service for the Q13, Q15, Q16 and Q28 buses to help accommodate more commuters trying to get to Main Street, in order to take the 7 train into Manhattan—as opposed to the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), which will be severely affected by the construction.
The MTA said that it would review the request.
Amtrak will reconstruct tracks in Penn Station in response to an uptick in derailments, train breakdowns and delays in recent weeks.
The work, which will officially begin on July 10, will lead to a 20 percent reduction in service to Penn Station, with multiple tracks potentially being closed at any given time, according to reports.
The MTA announced plans on June 12 to address the situation and maintain passenger capacity. With the expected track work, the LIRR was anticipated to cancel or divert 15 Penn Station-bound LIRR trains during the morning rush between 6 and 10 a.m., affecting 9,600 passengers. To accommodate them, the MTA is adding three new rush-hour trains into Penn Station and approximately 36 cars to existing Penn Station-bound trains.
Additionally, the LIRR is introducing a network of 200 buses from commuter parking lots on Long Island to several locations in Manhattan, and ferries will run from Glen Cove and Hunters Point in Long Island City to the 34th Street Pier.
But state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) wrote a letter to MTA presidents Veronique Hakim and Patrick Nowakowski on June 14, decrying expected cancellations of LIRR service in northeast Queens and demanding the MTA revisit its plans.
“As you are keenly aware, commuters in this area only have the option of LIRR service or the 7 train at Flushing Main Street to commute into Manhattan,” Avella wrote. “And I do not feel the need to tell you yet again that the 7 train simply cannot accommodate more passengers at Flushing Main Street, since it is 94 percent capacity. Though some park-and-ride bus service will be added for commuters in Nassau County, the MTA is not providing any of these services to northeast Queens, which is already a transit desert.”
When asked for comment, the LIRR argued that it would maintain Port Washington Branch capacity under its current plan. The normal 8:04 a.m. express train from Great Neck will no longer run, but newly announced trains will run both 20 minutes earlier and later. The later train will add two cars to handle additional capacity.
In the evening, two cancelled trains will be replaced with options departing from Penn Station three and six minutes later, respectively, according to the LIRR. Three other trains will be rerouted to leave from Hunterspoint Avenue, which is accessible on the 7 train.