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ICYMI: Governor Hochul Celebrates Long Island Rail Road’s 190th Anniversary

Long Island Rail Road
Updated April 24, 2024 8:00 p.m.
MTA Long Island Rail Road President Rob Free commemorates the 190th anniversary of the LIRR on Wednesday, Apr 24, 2024 at Grand Central Madison.

Under Governor Hochul’s Leadership LIRR Experienced Nation’s Largest Service Increase

Railroad Grows the Region, Enhances Safety, Service and Infrastructure  

See Video Created for the LIRR’s 190th Anniversary

Governor Hochul and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today celebrated the 190th anniversary of the founding of MTA Long Island Rail Road on April 24, 1834. The LIRR is the busiest commuter railroad in North America, carrying more than 200,000 customers each weekday and last year in conjunction with the opening of Grand Central Madison and Main Line Third Track, it operated more than 77,000 more trains than it did the prior year, a service increase of 41 percent.

“The founding of the Long Island Rail Road on April 24, 1834 marked a new beginning of travel and regional connectivity.” Governor Hochul said. “It has delivered significant benefits to the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who rely on it every day and shows the importance of continuing to expand transit throughout our state.”

Long Island Rail Road President Rob Free said, “The past 190 years have shown that the history of growth and development of Long Island is intertwined with the improvement and expansion of the Long Island Rail Road. The relationship continues all the way to today, where Long Island thrives in part because of its access to a 24-hour safe and reliable transportation system unlike any other in the country.”

MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said, “In the Long Island Rail Road’s 190-year history, the past five have been some of the most significant, with the implementation of Positive Train Control, reconstruction of the LIRR’s spaces at Penn Station, completion of the Third Track Project and the first new full-service in 50 years at Elmont-UBS Arena. And with the opening of Grand Central Madison, there are robust reverse commuting options that connect City residents to jobs on the island and allow Long Island businesses to recruit talent from the entire region. We are grateful for the unwavering support of Governor Hochul, who recognizes the importance of continuing to improve and modernize the LIRR.”

To celebrate the occasion, the railroad invited the current longest-tenured Mail & Ride Monthly ticketholder, Phyllis Klecka of East Islip, who has been commuting on the railroad for 60 years.  

Mail & Ride Monthly Ticketholder Phyllis Klecka said, “It’s the best place for me to relax and read. There has always been a great benefit to commuting on the LIRR, namely the time available to spend reading. The cars are usually quiet during the weekday morning and evening commutes, so my tote bag becomes a pop-up library filled with newspapers, books and articles.” 

Out of the past 190 years, the last five have been some of the most monumental in the railroad’s history. Since 2018 the Long Island Rail Road has activated Positive Train Control, a system that provides an extra layer of safety to train operations, added a 13-mile long second track to the Ronkonkoma Branch, a 10-mile long Main Line Third Track between from Floral Park and Hicksville, built the first new full-service in 50 years at Elmont-UBS Arena and opened a new terminal at Grand Central Madison that brought LIRR service directly to Manhattan’s east side for the first time. Some features of these projects were new signal systems, electrical substation modifications and modern amenities. The Main Line Third Track was not only a major advance in service but a huge leap in safety with the elimination of eight street-level grade crossings and, modifications to seven rail bridges. 

Penn Station, the LIRR’s terminal on the West Side received a massive upgrade starting in 2020 with the opening of an iconic new entrance to the LIRR Concourse at Seventh Avenue and 33rd Street. Construction crews then moved on to the rest of the concourse between 7th and 8th avenues, first removing the low hanging “headknocker” beams that had kept ceilings low since the reconstructed terminal opened more than 50 years ago. Removal of these headknockers allowed the LIRR to raise the ceilings to 18 feet high and the full project nearly doubled the width of the corridor, provided key accessibility upgrades, improved lighting and air flow, added intuitive wayfinding, enhanced retail and dining options and added an LED powered luminous ceiling. 

The combination the Main Line Third Track and the opening of Grand Central Madison allowed the Long Island Rail Road to completely overhaul its schedules, adding 41 percent more service with more trains running during peak hours and better reverse commuting options to Long Island. Long Islanders now have the ability to travel from Montauk to Mount Kisco, Patchogue to Peekskill and Stony Brook to Stratford with only one ticket. 

LIRR on-time performance was 94 percent in 2023, 95 percent in January, and 96 percent in February, even with ridership up 22 percent compared to February 2023. This number has continued to improve throughout 2024.   

Moving Forward

Within the current Capital Program, MTA Construction & Development is moving forward with ADA upgrades at nine Long Island Rail Road stations. New elevators and upgrades are planned for Amityville, Copiague, Laurelton, Lindenhurst, Locust Manor, Massapequa Park and St. Albans. Earlier this month, the MTA announced it will move forward with upgrades to make Hollis Station accessible as well as improve accessibility at Babylon and Forest Hills. All LIRR stations are advancing in either construction or design for ADA accessibility. 

The existing accessibility components at Auburndale and Valley Stream stations will also be upgraded, including new elevators between street and platform level, modification of canopies, new sidewalks and curb ramps that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

As workers continue to return to the office following the Covid pandemic the LIRR is focused on providing reliable service, improved safety onboard trains and in its facilities and reducing crowding on trains as ridership continues to grow. The LIRR is improving the customer experience so more people will take the Long Island Railroad. The LIRR is the cheapest, most convenient and comfortable way to get into and out of the city.