About the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR)
The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), in New York was first commissioned on April 24, 1834 and so celebrated its 175th Anniversary in 2009. The LIRR is now the oldest railroad in America which still operates under its original name, and remains the busiest commuter railroad in the whole of North America, carrying around 81 million passengers annually.
History of the LIRR
The Long Island Rail Road Company was first chartered in 1834 with the task of providing a daily service between Boston and New York. This was designed to work via a ferry service from Long Island's North Fork at Greenport, to Stonington, Connecticut. In 1849 the ferry service became obsolete however when a land-based route was put into place through Connecticut, and so the company began to focus instead on developing services to the rest of Long Island. Initially this put them in direct competition with other rail road companies, but an amalgamation occurred during the 1870s, forming the consolidated LIRR.
Despite having suffered from poor profitability and even bankruptcy by 1949, the LIRR survived thanks to the State of New York recognising its importance and choosing to subsidize its upkeep throughout the 1950s and 1960s. This has continued to the present day, with the LIRR being run and subsidised by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to allow continued growth and modernisation.
LIRR Terminal Stations
The LIRR links to both the Long Island bus service and the New York Subway at several stations, allowing easy access to any other area of New York.
Pennsylvania Station in Midtown Manhattan is the west end terminal for the LIRR and serves the Main Line, which means that each of the 12 LIRR branches can be joined from this station. Pennsylvania Station also allows LIRR passengers to link easily to any of New York's boroughs through the Subway station which is located next to the terminal.
Flatbush Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn also provides an easy point for Subway passengers to join the LIRR since it is right next door to the Atlantic Avenue -Pacific Street Station.
Hunterspoint Avenue Station, which can be easily reached on the no. 7 subway from Grand Central Terminal, is the main departure point for many of the services to Montauk and the Hamptons including the popular Cannonball service.
There are also plans in place to further develop the links provided by the LIRR, with the next major stage for the LIRR to join directly with Grand Central Terminal. The required infrastructure is currently being undertaken and the extension should be in place by 2013.
The LIRR services the entire length of Long Island, with 124 stations across over 700 miles of track, comprising two lines which run along each of the major forks of the island and also branch off to other important destinations. In all there are 12 branches to the LIRR, with the eastern terminal stations being Jamaica Station in Queens, Babylon, Greenport, Far Rockaway, Hempstead, Long Beach, Montauk, Oyster Bay, Port Jefferson, Port Washington, Ronkonkoma and West Hempstead.
Serving New York's Commuters
The LIRR provides an essential service to commuters, making it easy to link up to Brooklyn, Manhattan and New York's mainland, and carrying more than 280,000 passengers each and every weekday. The Mineola Intermodal Center serves as a connection point for the LIRR and the Long Island Bus, and also provides ample parking for commuters wishing to use the LIRR to connect to New York City. This makes it easy for anyone on Long Island to use the LIRR to commute into the City, even if they've not got a station close to their home.
Serving Visitors to Long Island
As well as being an important service for commuters, the LIRR is also a great way for travellers to get around Long Island, with special services such as the Cannonball which runs to the Hamptons on the eastern edge of the Island. This is a great way for travellers to relax and reach their resort holiday without the stress of having to negotiate the busy New York traffic. The services of the LIRR are advertised as a safer, easier and greener way to travel to Long Island destinations. The LIRR has won awards for its safety performance and is policed by the Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA) which is tasked with keeping passengers safe through their journey. The benefits of using the LIRR are widely recognised, as is evidenced in the amount of people utilising the system - for example during the 2009 U.S. Open in Golf, one third of spectators attending Bethpage State Park travelled on the LIRR.
The LIRR also makes it easy to get from the airport to any holiday accommodation on Long Island, connecting to AirTrain JFK at Jamaica Station, and thereby providing a link to the quickest and easiest way to get to the airport. The AirTrain travels to and from the Jamaica Station every 5 to 10 minutes, and takes only 10 minutes to arrive at JFK Airport, so there's much less chance you'll be late for your flight than if you try to take a cab.
In addition to the passenger services, there are also four freight-only branches of the rail system which have been in operation since 1997, and are run by New York and Atlantic Railway.
The LIRR offers great value for money. The price structure works using zones, where the more zones you travel across, the more your ticket costs. Prices are also separated into peak and off-peak times, so visitors who don't need to travel at the same time as most commuters use the LIRR will pay less. Visitors planning on using the trains quite a lot should also consider purchasing a ten-trip ticket which can save them up to an additional 15% on off-peak fares - which means more to spend on souvenirs!
Ticket machines are available in most stations along the LIRR routes, and most of the larger stations also have ticket offices, with opening hours varying by station. It is generally cheapest to purchase tickets before boarding, and Web Tickets are the cheapest option, offering up to an additional 5% off the price from the ticket machine at the station.