OP-ED: LIRR UBS Elmont Arena Station one year later

Dec. 15, 2023

The previous Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) President Catherine Rinaldi never told the whole story a year ago at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for opening of the west bound platform, which completed the new Elmont UBS Arena Station. When she said, "Fans who live east of Belmont now have a one seat ride to attend Islanders and other events at the UBS Arena." The east bound platform opened months earlier.  

A one seat ride is true for many LIRR Oyster Bay, Port Jefferson, Huntington and Ronkonkoma branch riders when some of their trains stop at this station. The same can't be said for LIRR Babylon, Speonk, West Hempstead, Long Beach and Far Rockaway branch customers. They still have to change at Jamaica Station before doubling back east to reach the UBS Arena. LIRR Port Washington branch riders have an additional second Woodside Station transfer.  

The source of funding for the station came from the Empire State Development Corporation, transferring $105 million from its budget to the MTA. This financed the new Elmont LIRR Station. The developers put in $30 million up front and the state $75 million. The developers will continue to make payments, without interest, to reimburse the state during the next 30 years. They ended up with an interest free loan. 

Current LIRR President Rob Free should consider visiting the station and see this situation first hand. He could ask MTA Chairman Janno Lieber to reprogram existing funding within the $51 billion 2020 - 2024 Five Year Capital Plan, a portion of the $100 million savings from the LIRR $2.6 billion Main Line Third Track project or allocate future Congestion Price Tolling revenue to pay for upgrades. This could finance what previous LIRR Presidents Phil Eng and Catherine Renaldi neglected to include in the original scope of work for Elmont UBS Arena Station.

Those with the "urge to go" can only hope real bathroom facilities are added. They should also be ADA compliant. Why not also convert the station track overpass to a real waiting area or room rather than just a passageway connecting the east and west bound platforms? This could include seating, security cameras and HVAC units.  Riders would welcome heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer while waiting for the next train home.

I'm not aware that any of the other MTA 125 LIRR, 124 Metro North Railroad, 472 New York City Transit or 21 Staten Island Railway Stations providing a Porto San as a substitute to a real bathroom facility for riders convenience.

Would any other transit agency do the same? 

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.