NJ Transit customers have a quick and valuable connection in New York at Penn Station, both to Amtrak and the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR). However, it won’t be so easy on two weekends in October and November: the LIRR has announced the final phase of repairs to the signaling system at their busy Jamaica transfer point that caught fire in August, knocking out most service. On these two weekends, October 23–24 and November 6–7, the railroad will be nearly shut down to replace the antiquated system that caught fire. Michael M. Grynbaum, writing in The New York Times on September 28, reports that the railroad is instructing customers to “use LIRR for essential business travel only”. (The line’s Web site suggests that travel be undertaken only by first responders who have no other choice.) Only 3 trains per hour will operate between New York Penn Station and Jamaica; no service at all to Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn. Service on the Hempstead, Far Rockaway, and Port Jefferson lines will consist of diesel trains on 2-hour headways—and sorry, no bicycles will be allowed on the trains. According to the line’s Web site, many passengers will have to use the subway to reach Jamaica from Manhattan and some customers will have only bus service between Jamaica and Mineola. Ronkonkoma Branch trains will be rerouted via the Babylon Branch to Babylon and then to Farmingdale. Special timetables will be available. The Port Washington Branch, which does not pass through Jamaica, will not be affected; the railroad suggests those interested in “recreational travel” confine their trips to that branch.
Note that NJ Transit’s plan for a new “ARC” tunnel under the Hudson would bring many NJT customers, including all from the Morris & Essex and Montclair/Boonton lines, not into Penn Station but into a new “deep cavern” station under 34th Street. This would make connecting to Amtrak and the LIRR much more difficult, and is one of the reasons that the Lackawanna Coalition advocates that the new tunnel lead instead to Penn Station as originally planned: “Penn Station First”.