Long Island Railroad officials say 75 percent of its service will be restored by the morning commute following a fire Monday inside a switching tower in Jamaica, Queens which is causing significant delays for thousands of commuters. NY1's John Mancini filed the following report.
Long Island Rail Road officials say they are not sure what caused Monday's fire at a key signal tower in Jamaica. But commuters certainly know how bad things were after all service was knocked out on 10 of the railroad's lines for much of the day.
"I've been waiting at Penn Station for two hours. And I'm waiting here for an additional hour. We're looking for some point of organization. It's a test of our patience. But I'm hanging in there," said one LIRR passenger.
The railroad was able to restore about 60 percent of its normal service for the evening rush. Officials even scrambled to create a security plan to handle the influx at Penn Station.
"We will have MTA police, Amtrak police, and New York City police. We will be ensuring that Penn is under crowd control. We don't want all of the customers trying to get to Penn and at once thinking 'Oh, I better get the first train.' They don't need to do that. They need to be patient, take their time, use the full rush hour, those four hours to select a train to get home," said Long Island Railroad President Helena Williams.
The ride home for more than 100,000 commuters was disrupted by the fire, which broke out just before 11 a.m. after torrential rains poured down onto the morning commute. It knocked out a track switching system designed in 1913.
A new microprocessor system to be installed in October and November will replace the hand-operated setup. But that's no guarantee this problem couldn't happen again.
"This is a complex system, lots of infrastructure, there are always things that can happen," Williams said. "What we try to do is identify the problems, fix them as quickly as we can, offer our customers a transportation alternative, even if it means less service, it's still train service."
The fire left Long Island-bound commuters stranded and frustrated for much of the day at Penn Station, Jamaica and the Atlantic Avenue Terminal in Brooklyn.
"I've been on the train, I've been waiting since 11 o'clock. I ran from my apartment 20 minutes to catch the train, only to sit here for four and a half hours," said one frustrated LIRR passenger.
Riders are likely to be waiting for days, if not longer, for things to get back to normal.
More than 200 wires will have to be replaced in the guts of the signal system for the whole railroad.
LIRR Service Changes For Tuesday, August 24
LIRR service on the Port Washington Branch will operate normally. However, the Tuesday AM Rush service plan includes cancelation of 33 westbound AM rush hour trains, or 25 percent of the 144 trains that normally operate. As a result, there will be residual delays from added station stops and scheduled connections will not be available at Jamaica Station to Penn Station, Flatbush Avenue-Brooklyn, Hunterspoint Avenue, and Long Island City.
• Customers will be able to transfer between trains at Jamaica.
• LIRR station personnel will be available at Jamaica to assist customers with service information. The modified plan also includes service changes for the eastbound AM Rush.
• There is no train service between West Hempstead and Valley Stream – bus service will be provided for train service at Valley Stream.
• There will be no westbound train service from St. Albans, bus service will be provided between St. Albans and Jamaica
Westbound AM Peak Service Cancellations:
The following westbound AM Rush trains will be canceled in the modified service plan:
– The 6:38 AM Huntington train due in Atlantic Terminal at 7:36 AM
– The 7:12 AM Huntington train due in Penn Station at 8:10 AM
– The 7:28 AM Cold Spring Harbor train due in Penn Station at 8:25 AM
– The 7:04 AM Ronkonkoma train due in Penn Station at 8:19 AM
– The 7:19 AM Ronkonkoma train due in Penn Station at 8:28 AM
– The 6:57 AM Farmingdale train due in Penn Station at 7:48 AM
– The 6:57 AM Freeport train due in Penn Station at 7:40 AM
– The 7:29 AM Freeport train due in Penn Station at 8:13 AM
– The 8:08 AM Freeport train due in Penn Station at 8:50 AM
– The 8:25 AM Freeport train due in Penn Station at 9:08 AM
– The 6:15 AM Babylon train due in Atlantic Terminal at 7:27 AM
– The 8:16 AM Babylon train due in Penn Station at 9:31 AM
– The 8:35 AM Babylon train due in Penn Station at 9:37 AM
– The 5:18 AM Wantagh train due in Penn Station at 6:08 AM
– The 6:25 AM Hicksville train due in Penn Station at 7:11 AM
– The 8:03 AM Long Beach train due in Penn Station at 8:54 AM
– The 6:54 AM Long Beach train due in Atlantic Terminal 7:49 AM
– The 6:58 AM Hempstead train due in Penn Station at 7:52 AM
– The 6:21 AM Hempstead train due in Atlantic Terminal at 7:08 AM
– The 8:45 AM Hempstead train due in Atlantic Terminal at 9:34 AM
– The 8:03 AM Valley Stream train due in Penn Station at 8:42 AM
– The 8:10 AM Far Rockaway train due in Penn Station at 9:05 AM
– The 7:18 AM Far Rockaway train due in Atlantic Terminal at 8:11 AM
– The 7:12 AM Speonk train due in Hunterspoint Ave at 9:11 AM
– The 5:59 AM Port Jefferson train due in Hunterspoint Ave at 7:41 AM
– The 6:45 AM Port Jefferson train due in Hunterspoint Ave at 8:30 AM
– The 6:29 AM train from Oyster Bay due in Jamaica at 7:24 AM
– The 7:41 AM train from Oyster Bay due in Hunterspoint Avenue at 8:55 AM
– The 5:37 AM train from West Hempstead due in Valley Stream at 5:52 AM
– The 6:53 AM train from West Hempstead due in Atlantic Terminal at 7:41 AM
– The 7:16 AM train from West Hempstead due in Atlantic Terminal at 8:03 AM
– The 7:36 AM train from West Hempstead due in Penn Station at 8:29 AM
– The 8:28 AM train from West Hempstead due in Atlantic Terminal at 9:16 AM
Eastbound (Reverse Peak) Service:
• LIRR eastbound, reverse peak service from Atlantic Terminal and Penn Station is expected to operate at regularly scheduled times; however customers should anticipate delays en-route.
• There is no eastbound train service from Jamaica to Locust Manor, Laurelton and Rosedale, bus service will be provided.
Tuesday PM Service Plan
The LIRR’s modified PM Service Plan for Tuesday – the same as Monday evening’s service – provides about 60% of the LIRR’s regular 120 trains departing Manhattan between 4 PM and 8 PM. Customers are advised to expect canceled trains, delays and no scheduled connections at Jamaica Station.
• Regular service will be offered to Port Washington, so customers may want to consider taking that branch if they can make alternate arrangements for the remainder of their trip home.
• Aside from the regular Port Washington service, the evening rush hour service from Penn Station will consist of dedicated trains making local stops to Huntington/Port Jefferson, Ronkonkoma/Greenport, Long Beach, Babylon and Montauk.
• To avoid overcrowding at Penn Station, MTA Police will carefully regulate the number of people entering the LIRR section of the terminal, allowing customers in as trains become available. Crowding is also a concern at Jamaica.
• LIRR is will be offering Hempstead and Far Rockaway-bound trains only from Atlantic Terminal in downtown Brooklyn, which can be reached by subway. There will be no Hempstead and Far Rockaway service from Penn Station.
• LIRR customers were also advised of service changes if heading for the following destinations:
– Oyster Bay: Travel to Mineola for connections to all Oyster Bay branch stops.
– West Hempstead: Travel to Valley Stream where buses will be available to take them onto to their home stations.
– Patchogue, Speonk and Montauk: Customers can connect to those trains at Babylon.