The LIRR logo combines the circular MTA logo with the text Long Island Rail Road, and appears on the sides of trains. The LIRR is one of two commuter rail systems owned by the MTA, the other being the
Metro-North Railroad in the northern suburbs of the New York area. Established in 1834 and having operated continuously since then, it is the oldest railroad in the United States still operating under its original name and charter.
There are 126 stations and more than 700 miles (1,100 km) of track on its two lines running the full length of the island and eight major branches, with the passenger railroad system totaling 319 miles (513 km) of
route. As of 2018[update], the LIRR's budget for expenditures was $1.6 billion plus $450 million for debt service, which it supports through the collection of fares (which cover 43% of total expenses) along with dedicated taxes and other MTA revenue.
George Bradford Brainerd (American, 1845-1887). Station, Bay Shore, Long Island, September 1879. Collodion silver glass wet plate negative.
LIRR (Montauk & NY)
RPO cover (TR27) for the railroad's 100th anniversary in April 1934
The Long Island Rail Road Company was chartered in 1834 to provide a daily service between New York and Boston via a ferry connection between its
Greenport, New York, terminal on Long Island's North Fork and
Stonington, Connecticut. This service was superseded in 1849 by the land route through Connecticut that became part of the
New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. The LIRR refocused its attentions towards serving Long Island, in competition with other railroads on the island. In the 1870s, railroad president
Conrad Poppenhusen and his successor,
Austin Corbin acquired all the railroads and consolidated them into the LIRR.
The LIRR was unprofitable for much of its history. In 1900, the
Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) bought a controlling interest as part of its plan for
direct access to Manhattan which began on September 8, 1910. The wealthy PRR subsidized the LIRR during the first half of the new century, allowing expansion and modernization. Electric operation began in 1905.
Second World War, the railroad industry's downturn and dwindling profits caused the PRR to stop subsidizing the LIRR, and the LIRR went into
receivership in 1949. The
State of New York, realizing how important the railroad was to Long Island's future, began to subsidize the railroad in the 1950s and 1960s. In June 1965, the state finalized an agreement to buy the LIRR from the PRR for $65 million. The LIRR was placed under the control of a new
Metropolitan Commuter Transit Authority. The MCTA was rebranded the
Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 1968 when it incorporated several other New York City-area transit agencies. With MTA subsidies the LIRR modernized further, continuing to be the busiest commuter railroad in the United States.
The LIRR is one of the few railroads that has survived as an intact company from its original charter to the present.
The LIRR ticket counter at
Penn Station displays all locations accessible from Penn Station.
Atlantic Terminal, formerly known as Flatbush Avenue, in
Downtown Brooklyn serves the West Hempstead Branch, with limited Hempstead and Babylon Branch service during the weekday peak. Other trains run as shuttles to Jamaica. It is next to the New York City Subway's
Atlantic Avenue–Barclays Center station complex (2, 3, 4, 5, B, D, N, Q, R and W trains), providing easy access to
Lower Manhattan. With the opening of East Side Access, service between Atlantic Terminal and Jamaica is served mostly by shuttles.
Grand Central Madison, a new station under
Grand Central Terminal built as part of the
East Side Access project, started January 25, 2023. Provision was made for this route on the lower level of the
63rd Street Tunnel under the
East River, which carries the New York City Subway's
IND 63rd Street Line (F and <F> trains) on its upper level. The East Side Access project is expected to reduce congestion while increasing the number of trains during peak hours. It serves as the primary terminal for the Far Rockaway Branch, and serves several other branches except for the Oyster Bay Branch (as diesel trains do not run to Grand Central). 
There are eight minor branches. For scheduling and advertising purposes some of these branches are divided into sections; this is the case with the Montauk Branch, which is known as the
Babylon Branch service in the electrified portion of the line between Jamaica and Babylon, while the diesel service beyond Babylon to Montauk is referred to as Montauk Branch service. All branches except the
Port Washington Branch pass through
Jamaica; the trackage west of Jamaica (except the
Port Washington Branch) is known as the
City Terminal Zone. The City Terminal Zone includes portions of the Main Line, Atlantic, and Montauk Branches, as well as the
East River Tunnels to Penn Station.
A map of diesel territory on the Long Island Rail Road
The Main Line runs from
Long Island City east to
Greenport. It is electrified west of the
Ronkonkoma station; limited diesel train service runs from this point to the
Riverhead, or Greenport stations. Trains using the East River Tunnels from Penn Station join the line at
Sunnyside Yard. The services that run along this line are named after the branches they use; trains beyond Hicksville, where the Port Jefferson Branch diverges, are known as
Ronkonkoma Branch and Greenport Branch trains.
The Montauk Branch runs from Long Island City east to the
Montauk station, with junctions with the Main Line at Long Island City and
Jamaica. It is electrified from Jamaica east to
Babylon. Trains operating east of Babylon are listed as Montauk Branch service and are hauled by diesel locomotives, while trains using the line from Jamaica to Babylon are labeled as
Babylon Branch trains. The portion of the line between Long Island City and Jamaica, known as the Lower Montauk Branch, no longer carries passenger trains and is used only for freight service.
West Hempstead Branch splits from the Montauk Branch east of the Valley Stream station and runs northeast to
West Hempstead, originally continuing to junctions with the Hempstead Branch and the Oyster Bay Branch at the Main Line.
Central Branch runs southeast from the Main Line east of
Bethpage to the Montauk Branch west of the Babylon station, giving an alternate route to the Montauk Branch east of Babylon. The Central Branch used to continue west from Bethpage to include what is now the Garden City–Mitchel Field Secondary. It is to be electrified as part of the 2020-2024 MTA Capital Program.
Long Beach Branch begins where the Atlantic Branch ends east of the Valley Stream station (running parallel to the Montauk Branch until just after
Lynbrook) where it turns south to end at
Central Extension ran from Garden City eastward to Central Park (¾ mile south of current Bethpage station) and as far east as Bethpage Junction. The line was cut back to the point where it stopped at Island Trees. Today the western part of track still in use for freight and storage, and is officially known today as the
Garden City Secondary.
The Chestnut Street Incline (Brooklyn) between Atlantic Avenue and Fulton Street was opened in 1898 to allow for thru-operation over the Jamaica/Broadway Elevated Line to the East River ferry terminal. In 1909 thru passenger service to Manhattan via the
Williamsburg Bridge was established in coordination with the
Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT). LIRR Passenger service operated to Chambers Street between May 1909 and September 1917.
Montauk Cut-off was a short connecting track between the Lower Montauk Branch with the Main Line in Long Island City that allowed freights to go between the lines without entering the
Long Island City station.
Roosevelt Field Spur branched off northward from the current
Garden City Secondary just north of Commercial Avenue. From there, it crossed Stewart Avenue just west of present-day South Street before turning slightly northeast, crossing over the Meadowbrook Parkway. The overpass, as well as sections along the sidewalk on South Street, can still be seen today. From there, it continued north before curving east and coming to an end near Zeckendorf Boulevard. The line was used for freight only.
The railroad operates extra trains during the summer season that cater to the Long Island beach trade. Special package ticket deals are offered to places like
Greenport. Some of these packages require bus and ferry connections.
From May through October, the railroad runs four daily trains to
Belmont Park (two in each direction) during the racetrack's summer meets. Additionally, on the day of the
Belmont Stakes horse race the railroad runs extra trains to accommodate the large number of spectators attending the event.
The Mineola Intermodal Center (bottom left), as seen prior to the commencement of the construction on the Main Line's third track.
Penn Station offers connections with
Amtrak intercity trains and
NJ Transit commuter trains, as well as the
New York City Subway, and
New York City Bus systems. Grand Central offers connections with Metro-North Railroad, as well as the subway and bus systems. Additionally, almost all stations in Brooklyn and Queens offer connections with the New York City Bus system, and several stations also have transfers to New York City Subway stations. Transfers to
Nassau Inter-County Express and
Suffolk County Transit buses are available at many stations in Nassau and Suffolk counties, respectively.
Metro-North Railroad and NJ Transit, the Long Island Rail Road fare system is based on the distance a passenger travels, as opposed to the New York City Subway and the area's bus systems, which charge a flat rate. The railroad is broken up into eight non-consecutively numbered fare zones. Zone 1, the
City Terminal Zone, includes Penn Station, Grand Central, all stations in Brooklyn, all stations in Queens west of Jamaica on the Main Line, and Mets–Willets Point.
Zone 3 includes Jamaica as well as all other stations in eastern Queens except Far Rockaway. Zones 4 and 7 include all stations in Nassau County, plus Far Rockaway and Belmont Park in Queens. Zones 9, 10, 12 and 14 include all stations in Suffolk County. Each zone contains many stations, and the same fare applies for travel between any station in the origin zone and any station in the destination zone.
LIRR ticket vending machines, as seen at the Bethpage station.
Peak and off-peak fares
Peak fares are charged during the week on trains that arrive at western terminals between 6 AM and 10 AM, and for trains that depart from western terminals between 4 PM and 8 PM. Any passenger holding an off-peak ticket on a peak train is required to pay a step up fee. Passengers can buy tickets from ticket agents or ticket vending machines (TVMs) or on the train from conductors, but will incur an on-board penalty fee for doing so. This fee is waived for customers boarding at a station without a ticket office or ticket machine, senior citizens, people with disabilities or Medicare customers.
There are several types of tickets: one way, round trip, peak, off-peak, AM peak or off-peak senior/disabled, peak child, and off-peak child. On off-peak trains, passengers can buy a family ticket for children who are accompanied by an 18-year-old for $0.75 if bought from the station agent or TVM, $1.00 on the train. Senior citizen/disabled passengers traveling during the morning peak hours are required to pay the AM peak senior citizen/disabled rate. This rate is not charged during PM peak hours.
Commuters can also buy a peak or off-peak ten trip ride, a weekly unlimited or an unlimited monthly pass. Monthly passes are good on any train regardless of the time of day, within the fare zones specified on the pass.
The LIRR charged off-peak fares at all times during the
COVID-19 pandemic. Peak fares were reinstated on March 1, 2022, and several new discounts and ticket options were introduced at the same time.
During the summer the railroad offers special summer package ticket deals to places such as Long Beach, Jones Beach, the Hamptons, Montauk, and Greenport. Passengers traveling to the Hamptons and Montauk on the Cannonball can reserve a seat in the all-reserved Parlor Cars.
Prior to November 2021, passengers going to Belmont Park had to buy a special ticket to go from Jamaica to Belmont Park (or vice versa). Weekly and monthly passes were not accepted at Belmont Park. With the opening of
Elmont station in November 2021, Belmont Park and Elmont were placed into fare zone 4.
In 2003, the LIRR and Metro-North started a pilot program in which passengers traveling within New York City were allowed to buy one-way tickets for $2.50. The special reduced-fare CityTicket, proposed by the New York City Transit Riders Council, was formally introduced in 2004. The discounted fares were initially only available for travel on Saturdays and Sundays. In March 2022, it was expanded to include all off-peak trains throughout the week for $5. The MTA announced plans in December 2022 to allow CityTickets to be used on peak trains as well; governor
Kathy Hochul confirmed these plans the next month.
CityTicket is valid for travel within zones 1 and 3 on the Long Island Railroad. CityTickets can only be bought before boarding, except at
Willets Point where they can be purchased on board, and they must be used on the day of purchase. CityTickets are not valid for travel to
Far Rockaway because it is in Zone 4 (despite being within the city limits) and the
Far Rockaway Branch passes through
Nassau County. It is also not valid for travel to the
Elmont station or the special event only
Belmont Park station, which are just barely east of the Queens-Nassau border and thus are within Zone 4.
In late 2017, the MTA was slated to launch a pilot that will allow LIRR, bus and subway service to use one ticket. The proposal for the ticket, called the "Freedom Ticket," was initially put forth by the New York City Transit Riders Council (NYCTRC) in 2007.: 1 The NYCTRC wrote a
proof of concept report in 2015. At the time of the report,
express bus riders from Southeast Queens had some of the longest commutes in the city, with their commutes being 96 minutes long, yet they paid a premium fare of $6.50.
Riders who take the
dollar van to the subway paid $4.75 to get to Manhattan in 65 minutes; riders who only took the bus and subway paid $2.75 to get to Manhattan in 86 minutes; and riders who took the LIRR paid $10 to get to Manhattan in 35 minutes.: iii Unlike the CityTicket, the Freedom Ticket would be valid for off-peak and multidirectional travel; have free transfers to the subway and bus system; and be capped at $215 per month.: 1–2 At the time, monthly CityTickets cost $330 per month.
The Freedom Ticket will initially be available for sale at the
Nostrand Avenue, and
East New York stations in Brooklyn and at the
St. Albans stations in Queens. Riders, under the pilot, would be able to purchase one-way, weekly, or monthly passes that will be valid on the LIRR, on buses, and the subway. The fare will be higher than the price of a ride on the
MetroCard, but it will be lower than the combined price of an LIRR ticket and a MetroCard, and it will allow unlimited free transfers between the LIRR, buses, and subway.
The former head of the MTA, Thomas Prendergast, announced at the January 2017 board meeting that the plan would be explored in a field study to determine fares and the impact on existing service. The plan is intended to fill approximately 20,000 unused seats of existing trains to Atlantic Terminal and Penn Station (or about 50% to 60% of peak trains in each direction), while at the same time providing affordable service to people with long commutes. The details were to be announced in spring 2017, and the pilot would last six months.
The MTA Board voted to approve a six-month pilot for a similar concept, the Atlantic Ticket, in May 2018. The Atlantic Ticket is similar in that it would allow LIRR riders in southeast Queens to purchase a one-way ticket to or from Atlantic Terminal for $5. The Atlantic Ticket would start in June 2018. The success of the pilot program has led the MTA to extend the program up to the summer of 2020 and renewed calls for the program to be implemented within New York City, where the fare for the Freedom Ticket—if approved—would cost US$2.75 and include free transfers between the LIRR & Metro-North, bus, and subway.
In 2017, it was announced that the
MetroCard fare payment system, used on New York City-area rapid transit and bus systems, would be phased out and replaced by
contactless fare payment system. Fare payment would be made using
Google Pay, debit/credit cards with
near-field communication enabled, or radio-frequency identification cards. As part of the implementation of OMNY, the MTA also plans to use the system in the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad.
On December 2022, the MTA announced the launch of an additional fare for use on journeys that utilize both of its railroad systems via Grand Central. The fare is priced as $8 more than an adult off-peak ticket from an origin station on one system to Grand Central. It is valid on both peak and off-peak trains.
Accidents and incidents
On August 26, 1893, two trains collided in
Maspeth, Queens, killing 16 people and injuring over 40.
On February 17, 1950, two trains collided head-on after an engineer on train 192 ignored an approach signal and the following red signals at
Rockville Centre station, leaving 32 dead and more than 100 injured. At the time, it was the worst rail disaster in LIRR history.
On November 22, 1950, two trains collided after one of the trains passed a red signal in Kew Gardens, killing 78 and injuring 363 in the worst rail disaster in LIRR history.
On March 14, 1982, a train hit a van at a level crossing on Herricks Road in Mineola after the driver of the van went around the gate. Nine people were killed and one was injured.
On May 17, 2011 a commuter train in Deer Park obliterated a baked goods truck that attempted to drive around the crossing gate. The driver was killed and two passengers were injured.
On October 8, 2016, a commuter LIRR train side-swiped a maintenance train east of
New Hyde Park station. The commuter train cars suffered damage, 33 passengers were injured with 4 seriously.
On February 26, 2019, two separate Long Island Rail Road trains hit a pickup truck at the School Street railroad crossing in Westbury, New York on the LIRR Main Line, causing the driver and two passengers to be ejected from the vehicle resulting in their deaths, numerous injuries, and damage to the nearby LIRR station platform.
The LIRR is relatively isolated from the rest of the national rail system despite operating out of Penn Station, the nation's busiest rail terminal. It connects with other railroads in just two locations:
All LIRR trains have an engineer who operates the train, and a conductor who is responsible for the safe movement of the train, fare collection and on-board customer service. In addition, trains may have one or more assistant conductors to assist with fare collection and other duties. The LIRR is one of the last railroads in the United States to use mechanical interlocking control towers to regulate rail traffic.
As of 2016[update], the LIRR has 8 active control towers. All movements on the LIRR are under the control of the Movement Bureau in Jamaica, which gives orders to the towers that control a specific portion of the railroad. Movements in Amtrak territory are controlled by
Penn Station Control Center or PSCC, run jointly by the LIRR and Amtrak. The PSCC controls as far east as
Harold Interlocking, in
Sunnyside, Queens. The PSCC replaced several towers.
The Jamaica Control Center, operational since the third quarter of 2010, controls the area around Jamaica terminal by direct control of interlockings. This replaced several towers in Jamaica including Jay and Hall towers at the west and east ends of Jamaica station respectively. At additional locations, line side towers control the various switches and signals in accordance with the timetable and under the direction of the Movement Bureau in Jamaica.
Today's LIRR signal system has evolved from its legacy
Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR)-based system, and the railroad utilizes a variety of wayside
railroad signals including position light, color light and dwarf signals. In addition, much of the LIRR is equipped with a bi-directional
Pulse code cab signaling called
automatic speed control (ASC), though portions of the railway still retain single direction, wayside-only signaling. Unlike other railroads, which began using color-light signals in the 20th century, the LIRR did not begin using signals with color lights on its above ground sections until 2006.
Some portions of the railway lack automatic signals and cab signals completely, instead train and track car movements are governed only by timetable and verbal/written
train orders, although these areas are gradually receiving modern signals. Many other signals and switching systems on the LIRR are being modernized and upgraded as part of the Main Line's Third Track Project, most notably at Mineola, where the system is being completely redone and modernized.
A Long Island Rail Road M9, showing the dual-type contact shoe.
On portions of the railroad equipped with ASC, Engineers consult the speed display unit, which is capable of displaying 7 speed indications. They are 80,70,60,40,30,15 on electric trains while some diesel locomotives have slightly lower speed-steps when compared to the electrics. As a result of a December 1, 2013,
train derailment in
the Bronx on the Metro-North Railroad, railroads with similar cab signal systems to Metro-North, such as the LIRR, were ordered to modify the systems to enforce certain speed limit changes, which has resulted in lower average speeds and actual speed limits across the LIRR.
The LIRR's electrified lines are powered via a
third rail at
750 volts DC with the contact shoe running along the top of the rail, similar to on the
New York City Subway and
PATH systems. This system is incompatible with Metro-North's third rail, which is under-running, though the
M9 fleets are capable of using both types of third rails, as they are equipped with both types of contact shoes.
The LIRR's electric fleet consists of 836
M7 and 170
M3electric multiple unit cars in married pairs, meaning each car needs the other one to operate, with each car containing its own engineer's cab. The trainsets typically range from 6 to 12 cars long.
In September 2013, MTA announced that the LIRR would procure new
M9 railcars from
Kawasaki. A 2014 MTA forecast indicated that the LIRR would need 416 M9 railcars; 180 to replace the outdated
M3 railcars and an additional 236 railcars for the additional passengers expected once the East Side Access project is complete. The first M9s entered revenue service on September 11, 2019.
For most of its history LIRR has served commuters, but it had many named trains, some with all-first class seating, parlor cars, and full bar service. Few of them lasted past World War II, but some names were revived during the 1950s and 1960s as the railroad expanded its east end parlor car service with luxury coaches and Pullman cars from railroads that were discontinuing their passenger trains.
Cannonball, a Friday-only 12-car train to Montauk running May through October, with two all-reserved parlor cars with full bar service. Since May 24, 2013, it has originated at Penn Station with a Sunday evening return from Montauk; only the westward train stops at Jamaica. The two rear cars ("Hamptons Reserve Service") have reserved seating and exclusive bar service. The name is a nod to the Cannon Ball, the all-year train to Montauk from the 1890s until the 1970s. It carried parlor cars and standard-fare coaches and ran weekday afternoons from Long Island City, then from Penn Station until 1951, when
DD1 operation, and changing engines at Jamaica, ceased.
Fisherman's Special (1932–1950s) from Long Island City to Canoe Place Station and Montauk via Jamaica, April through October, terminating at Canoe Place in April, extended to Montauk in May. Served Long Island fishing trade.
Peconic Bay Express / Shinnecock Bay Express (1926–1950) from Long Island City to Greenport and Montauk, Saturday only, express to Greenport and Montauk. Discontinued during World War II though revived for a few seasons afterwards.
Shelter Island Express (1901–1903, 1923–1942) from Long Island City to Greenport, Friday-only summer express that connected to Shelter Island ferries.
Sunrise Special (1922–1942) ran during the summer, NY Penn to Montauk on Fridays and westbound Mondays. In summer 1926 it ran daily. All parlor car (no coaches) from 1932 to 1937.
A New York and Atlantic freight train at Jamaica station.
The LIRR and other railroads that became part of the system have always had freight service, though this has diminished. The process of shedding freight service accelerated with the acquisition of the railroad by New York State. In the 21st century, there has been some appreciation of the need for better
railroad freight service in New York City and on Long Island. Both areas are primarily served by trucking for freight haulage, an irony in a region with the most extensive rail transit service in the Americas, as well as the worst traffic conditions. Proposals for a
Cross-Harbor Rail Tunnel for freight have existed for years to alleviate these issues, and, in recent years, there have been many new pushes for its construction by officials. However, financial issues, as well as bureaucracy, remain major hurdles in constructing it.
In May 1997, freight service was franchised on a 20-year term to the
New York and Atlantic Railway (NYAR), a short line railroad owned by the
Anacostia and Pacific Company. It has its own equipment and crews, but uses the rail facilities of the LIRR. To the east, freight service operates to the end of the West Hempstead Branch, to Huntington on the Port Jefferson Branch, to Bridgehampton on the Montauk Branch, and to Riverhead on the Main Line. On the western end it provides service on the surviving freight-only tracks of the LIRR: the Bay Ridge and Bushwick branches; the "Lower Montauk" between Jamaica and Long Island City; and to an interchange connection at
Fresh Pond Junction in Queens with the
Canadian Pacific, and
Providence and Worcester railroads.
Some non-electrified lines are used only for freight:
Garden City-Mitchel Field Secondary is a short remnant of the Central Branch that splits from the Hempstead Branch at Garden City, running to
Hofstra University and Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. This branch does not host any NYAR service. This branch was used by the Ringling Bros. Circus to transport animals, staff and equipment to the Nassau Coliseum until their final shows there in May 2017.
This article needs to be updated. Please help update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. Last update: 18 February 2023(February 2023)
East Side Access
East Side Access project built a LIRR spur to Grand Central Terminal that will run in part via the lower level of the existing
63rd Street Tunnel. The East Side Access project added a new eight-track terminal called
Grand Central Madison underneath the existing Grand Central Terminal. The project was first proposed in the 1968
Program for Action, but due to various funding shortfalls, construction did not start until 2007. As of April 2018[update], the project was expected to cost $11.1 billion and was tentatively scheduled to start service in December 2022. It opened on January 25, 2023 with limited shuttle service between Jamaica and Grand Central. Full service to Grand Central began on February 27, 2023.
There are also plans to build
a new station in the Queens neighborhood of
Sunnyside, in between the New York terminals and the
Woodside station, serving as a rail hub for all LIRR branches and potentially some Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains, as well. The Sunnyside station is to be built after the completion of East Side Access, due to current capacity constraints.
One of the lower level platforms under construction in Grand Central's future LIRR terminal
The new pocket track in Massapequa, located in between the two outer tracks, as viewed from a passing Babylon Branch train
Construction on Jamaica's new platform in August 2019
The completed second track, as viewed from the reconstructed Wyandanch station.
Main Line projects
In 2012, the LIRR started adding a second track along the formerly single-tracked section of the Main Line between
Ronkonkoma stations to increase track capacity and allow for enhanced service options. The project was completed in September 2018.
As part of the preparations for East Side Access's opening, the LIRR is also widening the two-track sections of the Main Line between
Floral Park and
Hicksville stations to three tracks, in addition to eliminating each of the grade crossings and rebuilding all of the stations along this stretch of the Main Line. Work on the third-track project started in September 2018. The project's completion was estimated for 2022, in time for the opening of East Side Access.
The larger Belmont Park Redevelopment Project called for a new
Elmont station between the
Queens Village and
Bellerose stations on the Main Line, to better serve the new
UBS Arena in the Nassau County neighborhood of
Elmont. It is the first new station built by the LIRR in nearly 50 years; the last new station added was the former
Southampton College station on the Montauk Branch, which opened in 1976 and closed in 1998, due to low ridership and the high cost of installing
high-level platforms for the then-new C3 railcars. The eastbound platform of Elmont station officially opened in November 2021, with the westbound platform scheduled to be completed in late 2022.
As part of the MTA's 2020-2024 Capital Program, the Central Branch, shown here, will be electrified.
As part of the 2020–2024 MTA Capital Program, the
Central Branch of the LIRR will be electrified, to allow for enhanced service options and capacity, and to mitigate service disruptions, should one arise.
There have also been many pushes by residents and politicians over the past several decades – most recently by New York Senator
Jim Gaughran – to electrify the remainder of the Port Jefferson Branch between the
Port Jefferson stations, in addition to the remainder of the Oyster Bay Branch between the
East Williston and
Oyster Bay stations to enhance service in the served areas and to upgrade service capacities along the lines; electrifying these lines could lead to more frequent direct service to and from Manhattan, as diesel trains are not allowed in Penn Station and dual-mode trains exceed the clearance for the future East Side Access tunnels.
The LIRR has a long history of tense relations with its passengers. Daily commuters have long had complaints about the LIRR's service. According to a 1999 article in The New York Times, the LIRR's service woes were long considered part of the "unholy trinity of life on Long Island," along with the
Long Island Lighting Company's high rates and the
Long Island Expressway's traffic snarls. Various commuter advocacy groups have been formed to try to represent those interests, in addition to the state mandated LIRR Commuters Council.
The LIRR has been criticized for not providing additional service to the
East End of Long Island as the twin forks continue to grow in popularity as a year-round tourist and residential destination. Demand is evidenced by flourishing for-profit bus services such as the
Hampton Jitney and the
Hampton Luxury Liner and the early formative stages of a new East End Transportation Authority. Local politicians have joined the public outcry for the LIRR to either improve the frequency of east end services, or turn the operation over to a local transportation authority.
Critics claim that the
on-time performance (OTP) calculated by the LIRR is manipulated to be artificially high. Because the LIRR does not release any raw timing data nor does it have independent (non-MTA) audits it is impossible to verify this claim, or the accuracy of the current On Time Performance measurement. The percentage measure is used by many other US passenger railroads but the criticism over accuracy is specific to the LIRR. As defined by the LIRR, a train is "on time" if it arrives at a station within 5 minutes and 59 seconds of the scheduled time. The criterion was 4 minutes and 59 seconds until the LIRR changed it because of a bug in their computer systems.
Critics believe the OTP measure does not reflect what commuters experience on a daily basis. The LIRR publishes the current OTP in a monthly booklet called TrainTalk. TrainTalk was previously known as "Keeping Track." A more accurate way to measure delays and OTP has been proposed. Called the "Passenger Hours Delayed" index it can measure total person-hours of a specific delay. This would be useful in comparing performance of specific days or incidents, day-to-day (or week-to-week) periods, but has not been adopted.
Ridership has increased from 81 million passengers in 2011 to 89.3 million passengers in 2016, which is the railroad's highest ridership since 1949. The all-time highest ridership was in 1929, when 119 million passengers rode 1.89 billion passenger miles. This increase in ridership has been attributed to the increased usage of the LIRR by millennials, and the increase of reverse-peak travel.
Pension and disability fraud scandal
A New York Times investigation in 2008 showed that 25% of LIRR employees who had retired since 2000 filed for disability payments from the federal Railroad Retirement Board and 97% of them were approved to receive disability pension. The total collected was more than $250,000,000 over eight years. As a result, Railroad Retirement agents from Chicago inspected the
Long Island office of the
Railroad Retirement Board on September 23, 2008. New York
GovernorDavid Paterson issued a statement calling for
Congress to conduct a full review of the board's mission and daily activities. Officials at the board's headquarters responded to the investigation stating that all occupational disability annuities were issued in accordance with applicable laws.
On November 17, 2008, a former LIRR pension manager was arrested and charged with official misconduct for performing outside work without permission. However, these charges were all dismissed for "no merit" by Supreme Court Judge Kase on December 11, 2009 on the grounds that the prosecution had misled the grand jury in the indictment.
A report produced in September 2009 by the
Government Accountability Office stated that the rate at which retirees were rewarded disability claims was above the norm for the industry in general and indicated "troubling" practices that may indicate fraud, such as the use of a very small group of physicians in making diagnoses.
Another series of arrests on October 27, 2011 included two doctors and a former union official.
According to court documents, from 1998 through 2011, 79% of LIRR retirees obtained federal disability when they retired. On August 6, 2013, a doctor and two consultants were found guilty in connection with the accusations and sentenced to prison.
"LIRR’s Heavy Subsidies and the Coming Debate Over MTA Funding", Gotham Gazette, January 10, 2019. Accessed March 9, 2022. "The data show the LIRR farebox will contribute 43.4% of the LIRR’s operating costs in 2019 and declines to about 38% by 2022.... This analysis shows that the Long Island Rail Road’s deficit is $1.345 billion a year and is more than 18% of the MTA’s total deficit, although its fare and other operating revenue provide about 12% of the MTA’s total revenue."