The Long Island Railroad is currently in the process of soliciting feedback for its scheduled fare and toll hike. The hike is expected to generate an additional $252 million per year, with another hike expected in 2017. It is past time the LIRR confronts the state of the Oyster Bay line, and the increased revenues from toll/fare hikes provide it with a good time to start. The MTA could make small, inexpensive adjustments to make the line more attractive.
There are a myriad of problems with the Oyster Bay line, with possibly the most pressing being that only one “express” train runs every morning. Express trains on other LIRR lines skip stops in order to quicken the overall trip. For the Oyster Bay line, there are no skipped stops on its express train. Instead, the train simply doesn’t require a transfer at Jamaica – that’s it.
According to the LIRR Origins & Destinations study of 2006, the average ridership of the entire Oyster Bay line falls in the bottom third of ridership across all LIRR stations. The East Williston stop, with the highest average ridership of the line, comes in at 82nd of 122 stations. Glen Street ranks 94th in average ridership, Glen Cove at #97, Greenvale at #102 and Oyster Bay at #105.
Approximately 70,000 people live along the route serviced by the Oyster Bay line, with approximately 27,000 in the City of Glen Cove alone. The LIRR should cut down on the number of stops for its Oyster Bay express service, then expand from one express train to two or three. If we estimate that skipping a stop saves four minutes, then skipping four stops on the line would bring the trip from Oyster Bay to Manhattan in an hour, making it competitive with other LIRR lines.
Too many people choose to drive to neighboring stations such as Mineola, Hicksville or Syosset rather than utilize the Oyster Bay line, and this could help reverse that trend. For some perspective, 3 morning trains from Huntington arrive in Manhattan quicker than all trains from Glen Street. This relatively inexpensive first step could spur economic growth, expand the tax base and make our communities an easily accessible destination to and from Manhattan. We would still be subject to the never-ending LIRR fare hikes, but with improved service, it could be much more bearable.