January 29, 2023

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LIRR service to Grand Central begins today at long last

one of the world The most expensive Mass transit projects are finally opening to the public after years of delays and high costs, promising to save commuters up to 40 minutes Commute time between Long Island and Manhattan’s East Side.

The Long Island Rail Road project, also known as East Side Access, will connect LIRR to Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan. But for at least three weeks, starting on Wednesday, It will run with limited service, with riders being transferred at Jamaica Station in Queens. The Metropolitan Transit Authority, a government agency that operates New York City’s subways, buses and rail lines, said full service at Grand Central will follow with new schedules available for its various branches in the coming weeks.

The authority estimates that about 45 percent of LIRR riders will go to Grand Central, easing congestion at Penn Station on the West Side, which was the Manhattan rail line’s only stop.

But some transit advocates in New York City have criticized the project’s merits as an attempt to appease Long Island voters, who for decades have been a swing vote in gubernatorial elections.

Danny Pearlstein, a spokesman for the Riders Alliance, which represents commuter interests, said the project “represents the worst of New York’s transportation inequality.”

Mr. Pearlstein noted that the subways and buses are moving 24 times as many riders each day – Nearly five million people on a recent weekday – like the Long Island Rail Road.

“After introducing new service in exclusive suburban cities, Gov. Cathy Hochul owes millions of frequent bus and subway commuters in her executive budget next week,” Pearlstein said in a prepared statement.

The authority said the new service will boost train capacity to and from Manhattan by 50 percent, and that more than 160,000 commuters per day can save up to 40 minutes on their trips. Getting more services within the city will benefit not only Long Islanders, but also people who live in Queens, said Jano Lieber, head of the authority. Which has less subway service Relative to its size and population compared to other neighborhoods of the city.

“People who live in Queens now will have access to a lot more services and a lot more capacity,” Mr. Lieber said, noting that the increase in white-collar workers in Manhattan would benefit the blue-collar workers who work there as well. “This is an estate project, although it is often styled as a project for suburban dwellers.”

Through a speaker, Governor Hochul praised the long-awaited project, which She had promised that it would open in December 2022 before it was postponed to this year.

“The new Grand Central Direct service is an incredible achievement to better serve passengers,” Ms. Hochul’s spokesperson said in a statement.

An investigation by the New York Times in 2017 revealed That estimated cost of the East Side Access project has tripled to $12 billion, or roughly $3.5 billion per new mile of track — seven times the average elsewhere in the world. Construction began in 2001. The Transportation Authority has since said the price came to just $11.1 billion.

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Mr. Lieber said that when he took on the project in 2017 as Head of Construction at MTAHe streamlined it to curb costs and boost efficiencies, which is why it was finally completed.

“I’m kind of proud that we said, ‘We’re not going to change the schedule,'” he said. “We got it done. We got it right through Covid when every other huge project in America had some scheduled impacts.”

East Side Access is the authority’s largest project—one of several ongoing expansion efforts contributing to rising construction costs even as the MTA faces a nearly $3 billion budget gap by 2025 caused in part by declining fare fund revenue. To offset the loss of passengers, the authority is considering increasing the current $2.75 base fare to $2.90 by this year and to $3.02 in 2025, though any fare changes would be preceded by public hearings and a board vote.

The fare increase won’t remove its debt burden, it will only reduce it to $600 million this year, and transit leaders want the city, state or federal government to bridge that shortfall. Their request has received a tepid response from Mrs. Hochul, who effectively controls the MTA

Grand Central’s new service will increase peak hour capacity at a time when many commuters who work white-collar jobs work from home at least part of the week. Subway ridership on weekdays is hovering at about 65 percent of pre-pandemic levels, and forecasters predict they will only reach 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels by 2026.

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These changing mobility patterns have posed a crisis for transportation systems around the world. Transit officials and advocates fear that shrinking passenger and fare revenues could lead to service cuts, making transit less convenient for the public and, in turn, further declining ridership.

Although falling ridership has contributed to the authority’s financial crisis, it was already heavily indebted before the pandemic. The system was saved from dissolution in the early 1980s when lawmakers allowed it to issue bonds. However, the authority’s debt burden has ballooned.

Expenses exceeded income, and the authority borrowed heavily to keep up. The volume of outstanding long-term debt issued by the authority increased by 55 percent between 2010 and 2021, to $40.1 billion from $25.8 billion.