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MTA Announces Long Island Rail Road to Bolster Existing Schedules with Grand Central Direct Service

Long Island Rail Road
Updated December 19, 2022 9:00 p.m.

Terminal to Open with Grand Central Direct Trains Between Jamaica and GCM Upon Completion of Facility Systems Testing 

MTA to Provide Customers With At Least Three Weeks’ Notice Before Full Timetables Take Effect 

MTA Introduces Combo Tickets to Enable Travel Across Two Railroads on a Single Ticket 


The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today announced that the Long Island Rail Road will introduce special Grand Central Direct service to Grand Central Madison beginning when facility systems testing is complete, to enable the public to begin exploring the new terminal and its route while the LIRR continues to maintain full existing schedules to Penn Station.  

Grand Central Madison is the first major new downtown rail terminal to open in the United States in 67 years and the first extension of the LIRR in 112 years, since service began to Penn Station in 1910. 

Grand Central Direct trains will operate between Grand Central Madison and Jamaica every 30 minutes during middays and on weekends, and hourly during weekday rush periods. They will be overlaid as additions to the LIRR’s existing timetables to ensure there are no changes to existing trains to Penn Station and other destinations. 

During this initial period, the LIRR will have customer ambassadors on the Grand Central Madison concourse to greet customers and offer information about the new space.  

The special Grand Central Direct service will conclude with the initiation of full train service mirroring what was put forward in draft schedules published last June. To enable travel planning, the MTA will provide at least three weeks’ notice before the new full schedules go into effect. 

“The MTA has held the line on Grand Central Madison’s opening date and budget since I rebooted the project in 2017 by empowering project management, developing a clear understanding of 44,000 work items and creating priority-based scheduling,” said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. “It was an approach to reset a long-running project I inherited and ensure we could open now. This work presaged the MTA’s new determination to deliver projects on time and on budget, as exemplified by the L Train project and by LIRR Main Line Third Track, which were both delivered on time and $100 million under budget. Specifically, we streamlined contracting to one team accountable for integrated design and construction, and also incentivized that team to finish early.”  

“It isn’t every day that customers get access to a world-class new train terminal, so we wanted to open up the opportunity to see the space weeks in advance of the full-scale new service going into effect,” said Catherine Rinaldi, Interim President, MTA Long Island Rail Road and President, MTA Metro-North Railroad. “Customers who are curious about the new terminal will be able to try it out, and we hope anyone who wants to will come take a look at the impressive new space.” 

“Project team members have been working extremely hard on this project in conjunction with LIRR forces to ensure a smooth opening,” said Jamie Torres-Springer, President, MTA Construction & Development. “More than a dozen systems from traction power to ventilation to data feeds for real-time departure boards to fire alarms have been tested, re-tested, and re-tested again. I’d like to thank the entire project team for the work they are putting in, and will continue to put in, before, during, and after opening day.” 

The opening of Grand Central Madison will enable the possibility of transferring directly between the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad. To encourage riders from each railroad to try the other, the MTA will introduce the “Combo Ticket” -- a single ticket that enables customers to travel between Long Island, Manhattan’s northern suburbs and Connecticut all with one fare.   

The Combo Ticket will enable riders to buy a Long Island Rail Road ticket in Port Jefferson for a trip to Port Chester or a Metro-North ticket in Poughkeepsie for a trip to Montauk. Riders choose their origination station with Grand Central as their destination and pay the regular fare plus a flat rate of eight dollars for a continuing trip to any destination on the other railroad. 

The new LIRR timetables will include 274 more trains each weekday than currently operate, a historic 41% service increase made possible in part by the completion on Oct. 3 of a new 9.8-mile Main Line third between Floral Park and Hicksville. The timetables will represent the first comprehensive rewrite of LIRR schedules in decades and the MTA encourages all riders, no matter when or where they travel, to review their options on the TrainTime app or review the LIRR’s service overview to see new options for their travel. 

Grand Central Madison and Main Line Third Track are part of an unprecedented $17.7 billion investment to transform and modernize the Long Island Rail Road with 100 projects throughout the system including construction of a more spacious LIRR Concourse at Penn Station with a new entrance at 33rd Street and Seventh Avenue, renewal and upgrading of 36 stations and 17 bridges, elimination of eight at-grade railroad crossings, activation of the Positive Train Control safety system, installation of 13 miles of second track between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma, upgrades to 15 electrical substations, parking capacity increases, and yard expansions.  

Additionally, following the opening of Moynihan Train Hall in 2021, the MTA, together with Empire State Development, NJ Transit and Amtrak, is transforming Penn Station into a world-class, single-level terminal with abundant natural light, high ceilings, increased access to platforms, and enhanced wayfinding.  

The Long Island Rail Road published draft timetables showing Grand Central Madison service on June 2 for public review and held six virtual information sessions and public meetings between June 23 and Aug. 11 to gather public feedback.