Long Island Rail Road

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Long Island Rail Road
LIRR logo.svg
LIRR map.svg
LIRR sampler electric and diesel services.jpg
The Long Island Rail Road provides electric and diesel rail service east-west throughout Long Island, New York.
Reporting markLI
LocaleLong Island, New York
Dates of operation1834–present
(PRR-operated from 1928 to 1949)
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
HeadquartersJamaica Railroad Station
Jamaica, NY 11435
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Long Island Rail Road
LIRR logo.svg
LIRR map.svg
LIRR sampler electric and diesel services.jpg
The Long Island Rail Road provides electric and diesel rail service east-west throughout Long Island, New York.
Reporting markLI
LocaleLong Island, New York
Dates of operation1834–present
(PRR-operated from 1928 to 1949)
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
HeadquartersJamaica Railroad Station
Jamaica, NY 11435

The Long Island Rail Road (reporting mark LI) or LIRR is a commuter rail system serving the length of Long Island, New York, stretching from Manhattan to the easternmost tip of Suffolk County, New York. It is the busiest commuter railroad in North America, serving nearly 335,000 passengers daily.[1] Established in 1834 and having operated continuously since then, it is the oldest US railroad still operating under its original name and charter.[2] There are 124 stations on the LIRR, and more than 700 miles (1,100 km) of track[3] on its two lines to the two forks of the island and eight major branches. It is publicly owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which has styled it MTA Long Island Rail Road. The current 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 one is Metro-North Railroad.

The LIRR is the only commuter passenger railroad in the United States to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with significant off peak, weekend, and holiday service.


LIRR (Montauk & NY) RPO cover (TR27) for the road's 100th anniversary in 1934

The Long Island Rail Road Company was chartered in 1834 to provide a daily train 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 This service was superseded in 1849 by the land route through Connecticut that was to become part of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. The LIRR refocused its attentions towards serving Long Island itself, 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.[citation needed]

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 commenced on September 8, 1910. The wealthy PRR subsidized the LIRR during the first half of the new century, allowing much expansion and modernization.[citation needed]

By the end of the Second World War, however, the downturn in the railroad industry and dwindling profits caused the PRR to stop subsidizing the LIRR. The bankrupt LIRR went into receivership in 1949. The State of New York, realizing how important the railroad was to the future of Long Island, began to subsidize the railroad gradually throughout the 1950s and 60s. In 1966, New York State bought the railroad's controlling stock from the PRR and put it under the newly formed Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Authority (renamed Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 1968). With MTA subsidies, the LIRR modernized further and grew into the busiest commuter railroad in the United States.[citation needed]

The LIRR is one of the few railroads that has survived as an intact company from its original charter to the present day.[2]

Major stations[edit]

The LIRR operates out of three western terminals in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. Jamaica Station in central Queens is the hub of all railroad activities. Expansion of the system into Grand Central Terminal is anticipated over the next few years. The list of major stations includes:

LIRR connecting concourse at Penn Station
Long Island City station and yard
Platforms at Jamaica

Passenger lines and services[edit]

Schematic of services
LIRR M7 train moves through a grade crossing

The Long Island Rail Road system is made up of eleven passenger branches. Two main trunk lines, the Main Line and Montauk Branches, spin off nine smaller branches. For scheduling and advertising purposes some of these branches are further divided into sections such as 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 the Montauk Branch service. All branches except the Port Washington Branch pass through Jamaica; the trackage west of Jamaica (except to Port Washington) is known as the City Terminal Zone. The City Terminal Zone includes portions of the Main Line and Atlantic and Montauk Branches as well as the Amtrak-owned East River Tunnels to Penn Station. The passenger lines are:

C3 Bi-level coaches at grade crossing in Bethpage

Former branches[edit]

The railroad has dropped a number of branches due to lack of ridership over the years. Some of these lines became part of the IND Rockaway Line of the New York City Subway, while others were downgraded to freight branches, and the rest abandoned entirely.

Additional services[edit]

In addition to its daily commuter patronage, the LIRR also offers the following services:

Fare structure[edit]

Like Metro-North Railroad and New Jersey Transit, the Long Island Rail Road has a fare system that is based on the distance a passenger travels, as opposed to the New York City Subway which has a flat rate throughout the entire system. The railroad is broken up into eight numbered fare zones. Zone 1 includes all of the city terminals and stations west of Jamaica. Zone 3 includes Jamaica and all stations east of Jamaica within the boundaries of New York City, except Far Rockaway. Zones 4 and 7 include all the stations in Nassau County and Far Rockaway. Zones 9, 10, 12, and 14 includes all the 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.

Peak fares are charged during the week on trains that arrive at western terminals between the hours of 6 am and 10 am, and for trains that depart from western terminals between the hours of 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 have the options of buying tickets from ticket agents or ticket vending machines (TVMs) or on the train from railroad conductors yet will incur an on-board penalty fee for doing so. This fee is waived for senior citizens and disabled passengers and also for passengers who board from stations where there are no ticket offices or TVMs.

There are several types of tickets: one way, round trip, peak, off-peak, AM peak or off-peak senior/citizen disabled, peak child, and off-peak child. On off-peak trains, passengers can buy a family ticket for children who are accompanied by a 18 year old for $0.75 if bought from the station agent or TVM, $1.00 if bought on the train from the conductor. Additionally 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, but are only valid within the fare zones specified on the pass.

On weekends, the railroad offers a special reduced-fare CityTicket, introduced in 2004,[9] for passengers who travel within Zones 1 and 3 (i.e. within New York City). CityTickets can only be bought from ticket agents or machines and used on the day of purchase. They are not valid for travel to Far Rockaway because it is in Zone 4 and the Far Rockaway Branch passes through Nassau County. It is also not valid for travel to the Belmont Park station, which is only open for special events.

During the summer season 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 also have the option of buying a reserved ticket to sit in one of the train's all-reserved Parlor Cars. However, the LIRR suggests that these tickets be booked in advance based on limited availability.

Train operations[edit]

The LIRR runs relatively isolated from the rest of the national rail system. In only two locations does the railroad connect with other railroad trackage:

West of Harold Interlocking in Sunnyside, Queens LIRR trains enter Amtrak territory (the Northeast Corridor) leading to the East River Tunnels. When this track was owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad, trains of the PRR connected to the LIRR at Penn Station. During the 1920s and 1930s, the PRR and LIRR ran a through train, such as The Sunrise Special which ran from Pittsburgh to Montauk.[10]

In Glendale, Queens the LIRR connects with CSX’s Fremont Secondary, which leads to the Hell Gate Bridge and New England, however, once trains leave the secondary they enter LIRR territory and fall under the guidance of the LIRR Book of Rules.[citation needed]

All movements on the LIRR are under the control of the Movement Bureau in Jamaica, which gives orders to the various train towers that control a specific portion of the railroad. Movements in Amtrak territory are controlled by Penn Station Control Center or PSCC, which is run jointly by the LIRR and Amtrak. The PSCC controls as far east as Harold interlocking which is in the Sunnyside area of Queens. The PSCC replaced several towers. The Jamaica Control Center (new in the third quarter of 2010) controls from there east through the 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. East of there, lineside towers control the various switches and signals under the direction of the dispatchers in Jamaica.[11]

Nearly all the lines are equipped for cab signaling. All passenger rolling stock is equipped to receive the cab signal. Cab signaling displays the block signal governing movement of trains in the engineer’s cab. In addition, all passenger rolling stock is equipped with Automatic Speed Control (ASC). ASC enforces the speed limit dictated by the cab signal if the engineer fails to comply with it. This is done by means of a penalty brake application. This feature greatly enhances safety.

On many of the lines, there are no intermediate wayside signals between the interlockings. On these lines, operation is solely by cab signal. Wayside signals remain at interlockings.

Power transmission[edit]

The LIRR's electrified lines are exclusively powered by 750 V DC third rail with the contact shoe running along the top of the rail, similar to the New York City Subway and PATH trains. In comparison, Metro-North Railroad uses a combination of under-running third rail on its electrified trackage and overhead catenary wires on the New Haven Line. New Jersey Transit's electrified rail lines are powered by overhead catenary wires.


The LIRR currently operates an electric fleet of 836 M7 and 170 M3 electric multiple unit cars. These cars operate in married pairs, meaning each car needs the other one to operate, with each car containing its own engineer's operating compartment. Typical consists range from a minimum of 6 cars to a maximum of 12 cars.

Additionally the railroad uses 134 C3 bilevel rail cars powered by 23 DE30AC diesel-electric locomotives and 22 DM30AC dual-mode locomotives.[12]

In September 2013, MTA announced that the Long Island Rail Road would procure new M9 railcars from Kawasaki.[13]

Named trains[edit]

Despite serving a commuter patronage for the majority of its history, the LIRR did have many named trains some of which offered all-first class seating, parlor cars, and full bar service. Many of these trains operated during the early part of the 20th Century, with many being discontinued due to the onset of World War II. Some of these trains were re-established during the 1950s and 1960s as the railroad expanded its east end parlor car service after acquiring luxury coaches and Pullman cars from railroads that were discontinuing their passenger trains.

Current trains[edit]

Former trains[edit]

Freight service[edit]

The freight-only Bay Ridge Branch through Brooklyn

The LIRR and other railroads that became part of the system have always had freight service, though this has diminished over the years. The process of shedding freight service accelerated with the acquisition of the railroad by New York State.

In recent years there has been some appreciation of the need for better railroad freight service in New York City and elsewhere 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 languished more than a century.

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.[16] It has its own equipment and crews, but uses the rail facilities of the LIRR. To the east, freight service operates to the ends of the West Hempstead, Port Jefferson branches, 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 CSX, Canadian Pacific, and Providence and Worcester railroads.

Freight branches[edit]

Some non-electrified lines are only used for freight:

Planned service expansions[edit]

Passenger issues[edit]

The LIRR has a long history of rocky relations with its passengers,[19] especially daily commuters.[20] Various commuter advocacy groups have been formed to try to represent those interests, in addition to the state mandated LIRR Commuters Council.[21]

One criticism of the LIRR is that the railroad has not improved 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.[22] 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 do they 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.[23] The criterion was 4 minutes and 59 seconds until the LIRR changed it because of a bug in their computer systems.[24] Critics[25] 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.[26] TrainTalk was previously known as "Keeping Track."

A more accurate way to measure delays and OTP has been proposed to the LIRR.[27] 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, something the current measure cannot do. This 'PHD' index measure is used by some transportation research organizations and would be more meaningful to commuters. As of July 2009 it has not been adopted. The two methods are not mutually exclusive and could be kept and published simultaneously.

2007 ridership was 86.1 million, up 4.9% over 2006. The all time highest ridership was 91.8 million in 1949.[28]

Law enforcement[edit]

The former LIRR Police Department, which was founded in 1863, was absorbed along with the Metro-North Railroad Police to form the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police (MTA Police) in 1998.

Allegation of pension and disability fraud[edit]

A New York Times investigation in 2008 showed that 25% of Long Island Rail Road employees who had retired since 2000 filed for disability payments from the federal Railroad Retirement Board and 97 percent of them were approved to receive disability pension. The total collected was more than $250,000,000 over 8 years.[29]

As a result, Railroad Retirement Agents from Chicago inspected the Long Island office of the Railroad Retirement Board on September 23, 2008. New York Governor David 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.[29]

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.[30]

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 the diagnosis.[31]

Another series of arrests on October 27, 2011 included two doctors and a former union official.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.apta.com/resources/statistics/Documents/Ridership/2013-q1-ridership-APTA.pdf
  2. ^ a b "LIRR History". mta.info. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  3. ^ a b c d e About the MTA Long Island Rail Road The passenger railroad totals about 315 route-miles.
  4. ^ "Airtrain JFK". mta.info. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  5. ^ MTA LIRR – Employment Opportunities (includes mailing address)
  6. ^ MTA Capital ConstructionEast Side Access
  7. ^ U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Transportation Secretary Signs Record $2.6 Billion Agreement to Fund New Tunnel Network To Give Long Island Commuters Direct Access to Grand Central Station, December 18, 2006
  8. ^ Ron Ziel and George H. Foster, Steel Rails to the Sunrise, ©1965
  9. ^ "CityTicket Begins Tomorrow on LIRR And Metro-North" (Press release). Metropolitan Transportation Authority. 2004-01-09. Retrieved 2010-02-14. 
  10. ^ a b May 1927 Sunrise Special timetable (Arrt's Arrchives)
  11. ^ Bedia, Leigh. “LIRR Jamaica Station Control Center.” Railpace January 2011 : P. 10.
  12. ^ Consultant's assessment of the LIRR, Page 21
  13. ^ MTA Press Release, September 19, 2013
  14. ^ "LIRR to Operate First Non-Stop Service from Manhattan to Hamptons". MTA Long Island Rail Road. Retrieved 2013-04-22. 
  15. ^ "LIRR Fisherman's Special (Arrt's Arrchives)". Arrts-arrchives.com. Retrieved 2013-01-19. 
  16. ^ Steinberg, Carol (January 31, 1999). "Bygone Era's Revival: Hauling Goods by Rail". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-15. 
  17. ^ Castillo, Alfonso (April 17, 2012). "$138M to help LIRR begin track work early". Newsday.  (subscription required)
  18. ^ Crichton, Sarah (July 11, 2012). "NIMBY mood hurts LIRR 3rd-track plan". Newsday.  (subscription required)
  19. ^ Maloney, Jennifer; Schuster, Karla (January 19, 2007). "The Gap What We Found, Thirty Years of Neglect". Newsday. 
  20. ^ Halbfinger, David M. (July 30, 1999). "The Long Island Rail Road: Busiest, but Far From Best". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-15. 
  21. ^ [1][dead link]
  22. ^ "eastendshuttle.org". eastendshuttle.org. Retrieved 2013-01-19. 
  23. ^ LIRR, – LIRR OTP
  24. ^ "– LIRR On Time Performance questions". Lirrcommuters.org. Retrieved 2013-01-19. 
  25. ^ "– LIRR Commuters Campaign". Lirrcommuters.org. Retrieved 2013-01-19. 
  26. ^ "MTA LIRR - TrainTalk - January 2013". Mta.info. Retrieved 2013-01-19. 
  27. ^ "– New OTP Proposal". Lirrcommuters.org. Retrieved 2013-01-19. 
  28. ^ "LIRR, AirTrain, Tri-Rail Note Higher Annual or Daily Passenger Counts". Progressive Railroading. February 8, 2008. Retrieved 2009-09-15. 
  29. ^ a b Bogdanich, Walt; Wilson, Duff (September 23, 2008). "Agents Raid Office in L.I.R.R. Disability Inquiry". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-15. 
  30. ^ Castillo, Alfonso A. (December 11, 2009). "Judge dismisses most charges against LIRR official". Newsday. Retrieved 2011-03-04. 
  31. ^ Railroad Retirement Board: Review of Commuter Railroad Occupational Disability Claims retrieved 2009-10-17
  32. ^ NBC New York, 2011 Oct 27 11 charged in Massive LIRR Disability Pension Scandal

External links[edit]