Happy 190th anniversary NY MTA LIRR

April 26, 2024
LIRR assets have shifted control several times in its long history, but it remains a part of the New York City regional transportation landscape.

Let us all wish a happy 190th anniversary to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority Long Island Rail Road (LIRR). On April 24, 1834, the Long Island Rail Road was officially chartered by the State of New York. In 1900, the Pennsylvania Railroad bought a controlling interest as part of its plan for direct access to Manhattan, N.Y., which began on Sept. 8, 1910. The Pennsylvania Railroad subsidized the LIRR into the late 1940s. This provided the financial basis for support of expansion and upgrades to service and infrastructure.
At the end of World War II, there began a decline of LIRR with a corresponding loss of farebox revenues. The Pennsylvania Railroad began to reduce financial support as well. This played a part in the LIRR going into receivership in 1949. In recognition of the role the LIRR played in the economy of both Long Island and New York City (NYC), New York State (NYS) began providing financial assistance to the LIRR in the 1950s and 1960s.
The "Line of the Dashing Dan" was officially chartered on April 24, 1965 by the state of New York. Prior to 1965, the LIRR derived almost 100 percent of its funding for both capital and operating expenses from fares. Chartered by the State Legislature in 1965 as the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Authority (MCTA), it was created to purchase and operate the bankrupt LIRR. 

In 1966, NYS bought the railroad's controlling stock from the Pennsylvania Rail Road and put it under the newly formed MCTA. The MCTA changed its name to the MTA in 1968 when it took over operations of the NYC Transit Authority.
With MTA subsidies, the LIRR modernized further and grew into the busiest commuter railroad in the United States.  During the past 50 years, several billion dollars in combined county, city, state and federal taxpayers generated dollars have subsidized both the capital and operating costs for the LIRR. 
Riders must remember that fare hikes are periodically required if the MTA is to provide the services millions of New Yorkers use daily. They are inevitable due to inflation, along with increasing costs of labor, employee pensions, power, fuel, supplies, materials, routine safety, state of good repair, replacement of worn out rolling stock, upgrades to stations, yards and shops, along with system expansion projects such as the $11.6 billion LIRR East Side Access to Grand Central Madison (completed), NYC Transit $4.5 billion Second Avenue subway Phase 1 (completed) or $7.7 Second Avenue Subway Phase 2 (just started)  necessary to run any transit system.

Half-hour weekly and weekend service on the Port Washington LIRR branch is one reason many decide to live in the Town of North Hempstead in suburban Nassau County, Long Island and neighboring northeastern Queens adjacent to the City Line.  It is easier seven days a week to attend Met games, other Citi Field events, US Open, Arthur Ash stadium, Flushing Meadow Park, Queens Zoo, Madison Square Garden activities and Broadway shows on a regular basis. Those of us in the know already moved to communities adjacent to LIRR Port Washington branch stations years or even decades ago.

Port Washington, Plandome, Manhasset and Great Neck In Nassau County and Little Neck, Douglaston and Bayside northeast Queens County neighborhoods are some of the best in the Metropolitan New York area. We have great air quality, along with a low crime rate, abundant parks, libraries, shopping, entertainment, movie theaters, hospitals and medical facilities.

Riders on the Port Washington branch have far more abundant seating and a quick 30 minute or less trip into Penn Station or Grand Central Madison without having to change at Jamaica Station in Queens than LIRR commuters on other branches. Port Washington branch riders miss most service disruptions.   
In the end, quality and frequency of service is dependent upon secure revenue streams. We all have to contribute—be it at the fare box or tax revenues generated by different levels of government redistributed back to the MTA.

About the Author

Larry Penner

Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously served as a former director for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office of Operations and Program Management. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for New Jersey Transit, New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, NYC Transit bus, subway and Staten Island Railway, Long Island and Metro North railroads, MTA Bus, NYCDOT Staten Island Ferry along with 30 other transit agencies in New York and New Jersey.