What's the busiest commuter railroad in North America?
If you guessed the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), you'd be correct! Every day, more than 301,000 people depend on the LIRR's 735 trains to take them where they need to go.
If you live in Long Island, you're likely part of that statistic. Since its inception in 1834, the railroad has helped commuters all over the region travel with ease. Today, we're taking a look at the vital role that LIRR also plays in the real estate sector.
Looking for a home on Long Island but dream of a job in New York City? Thanks to the LIRR, commuting isn't an issue. Read on to learn how this single perk can make a major difference when you're trying to decide where to put down roots!
What is the Long Island Rail Road?
The Long Island Rail Road, or LIRR, is a commuter rail system. Located in the southeastern part of New York state, it stretches all the way from Manhattan's newly refurbished Penn Station to Montauk, a city on the eastern tip of Long Island's Suffolk County.
A subsidiary of New York State's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the LIRR will celebrate 186 years in operation in 2020. In all, it consists of more than 700 miles of track, spanning 11 different branches and covering around 120 miles.
The railroad serves 124 stations as travels across Suffolk, Brooklyn, Nassau, Queens, and Manhattan. Every year more than 800 million people hop on board to travel to home, work, school, sports, entertainment venues, and local vacation spots.
Ready to Ride? Key Facts to Know
Need to get around Long Island? The LIRR offers rides 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including all holidays.
Nearly 500 of its daily trains drop off or pick up passengers at Penn Station in Manhattan. The other 235 trains either originate or terminate at Brooklyn's newly renovated Atlantic Terminal or Hunterspoint Avenue and Long Island City in Queens.
Of its 11 total, all but one of the LIRR branches pass through Jamaica Station. This is an important hub station and transfer point located in Jamaica, Queens.
An added benefit? At each of these terminals, passengers can find connections to the MTA New York City Transit subway service!
In addition, third-rail electric service is also offered on the lines to myriad destinations, including Port Washington, Hempstead, and Long Beach, among others. There is also diesel service on the lines to three destinations.
LIRR Schedule and Fare
As soon as you know the stations you want to hop on and jump off at, you can look up the specific schedule for those stations, dates, and times.
On the site, you can see timetables from January 6, 2020 to March 8, 2020, as well as ones from March 9, 2020 to May 17, 2020. Clicking on a particular branch will reveal its entire schedule.
If there are any changes to this routine schedule (e.g. special events), the MTA will also post them here so you're always in the loop.
Effective beginning April 21, 2019, there were new fares for LIRR ticket and Metro Card types. The full details are available here.
The LIRR is divided into different fare zones, and riders can choose from a variety of ticket options, including:
- Daily and single-rider tickets
- Multiple-ride tickets
- Tickets for seniors, people with disabilities, and Medicare recipients
- Military tickets
- Child and family fares
- Group tickets
Depending on your zone, these ticket prices will vary. Peak fares are charged during business rush hours. This applies to any weekday train that's scheduled to arrive in NYC terminals between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. or depart those same terminals between 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
One perk of the LIRR, especially for busy families? Up to four children (aged 5-11) can ride for only $1 each, as long as they're accompanied by a fare-paying adult (at least 18). While this special Family Fare rate only applies to off-peak and PM peak travel only, it's a great way to get around for less.
Most of the LIRR's stations feature automated ticket machines. This way, you can purchase your tickets before getting on the train, saving time once you arrive.
Running a little late? You can always purchase your tickets from the train conductors themselves.
The History of the LIRR
In addition to being the busiest railroad, the LIRR is also the oldest one of its kind that still operates under its original name.
To understand just what makes the LIRR so special, it helps to know how it got its start. To that end, let's explore a little of the history behind this iconic transportation system.
Before the Statue of Liberty and the Civil War, there was the Long Island Rail Road. Today, even after bankruptcies, two World Wars, adverse weather events, and myriad management changes, it's still as operable and reliable as ever before.
Celebrating its 186th birthday this year, the LIRR remains one of the few services in the United States to operate on a true, 24/7 basis. Yet, it all began back in 1832.
The B&J Railroad Company Becomes the LIRR
Originally slated to be called the Brooklyn & Jamaica (B&J) Railroad Company, the railroad began as a private franchise. The name comes from the two areas it was designed to connect: Jamaica, Queens, and Brooklyn. It was revolutionary at the time, noted as the first rail network built on Long Island.
The only issue? The B&J lost steam long before it was ever able to operate the line. In 1834, investors from New York and Boston came together to create the Long Island Rail Road Company. They leased the B&J, offering its services toward the mainland United States.
Setbacks Fuel Continued Growth
On April 18, 1836, the B&J opened its first line. In the early 1840s, low ridership numbers and mounting competition saw a few troubles for the brand-new network. In the 1850s, it was forced to declare bankruptcy, though this setback ended up being the setup for success the railroad needed.
After that pivotal moment, the LIRR turned its focus to local passenger services. It also re-routed its lines to more populated areas on Long Island. Though it weathered a few storms, the network flourished from that point onward.
Sold to the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) at the turn of the century, the LIRR continued to see periods of growth. In the 1950s, it was acquired by the State of New York's MTA, which has initiated a series of expansion and modernization projects in the decades since. In September 2019, the MTA announced plans to invest $5.7 billion in the LIRR to enable future upgrade and expansion projects.
Live on Long Island, Work in Manhattan?
For many, the idea of raising a family in quiet Long Island is a dream come true. Yet, the plentiful job opportunities in Manhattan leave them scratching their heads. They'd love to live in the country and work in the city, but how will they commute?
Driving into the city is possible, but not easy or quick.
This is where the LIRR comes in handy. Commuters in Long Island simply drive to the nearest station on the island, closest to where they live. Then, they can take the train to either Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan, or Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn.
From there, you can take the subway, bus or even a ride-share service to get to your workplace. Soon, there will be a third option!
The MTA has announced plans to extend the LIRR from its main line in Queens to a new station under Grand Central Terminal on Manhattan's East Side. Dubbed the East Side Access project, it's tentatively scheduled to begin service in December 2022.
Compared to other options, the LIRR is an economical, convenient way to have the best of both worlds.
Enjoy All the Perks of the Long Island Rail Road
As you've seen, the Long Island Rail Road is a network rich with history. Throughout the years, it's only grown stronger and more modern and thanks to the MTA's ongoing expansion plans, it shows no signs of slowing down.
This is great news to anyone who relies on the LIRR to get in and around Long Island, including commuting into Manhattan for work, entertainment, dining and more. When you're looking for real estate in the area, consider its proximity to the nearest LIRR station and factor that into your commute time.
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