This morning, Untapped New York will be on the first LIRR train into Grand Central Madison. Check back here and on our Instagram to follow the journey! Grand Central Madison, a new station below Grand Central Terminal, grants LIRR riders direct access to Manhattan’s East Side without having to double back from Penn Station. Today’s inaugural ride kicks off the start of Grand Central Direct service, a limited shuttle service from Jamaica station that will eventually expand into a full-service schedule.
The new station is located on the west side of Grand Central Terminal, deep below Vanderbilt Avenue. The new Long Island Rail Road terminal stretches over 714,000 square feet and is the first major railroad terminal to be built in the United States in 67 years. The expansion is also a first for the LIRR since the original McKim, Mead, and White-designed Penn Station opened 112 years ago.
Arriving at Jamaica Station, you could feel a buzz of excitement. Joining the crowds of people grabbing seats on the first train were Governor Kathy Hochul, MTA Chair & CEO Janno Lieber, and LIRR Interim President Catherine Rinaldi. The passenger riding next to us, Stephen, lives on the East Side of Manhattan and visits his family on Long Island often. He was joining the first train ride to get familiar with the new station that he and his family will be using, and because he’s interested in transit. He and his dad rode the first second avenue subway ride together and plan to make the trip into Grand Central Madison together soon. You could tell that the crowd on the train was a mix of press, transit enthusiasts, and people who will take this ride on their new commutes. All riders got a keepsake golden ticket upon arrival at the station!
Today’s opening of Grand Central Madison is the culmination of the multi-billion dollar East Side Access Project which has been under construction since 2006. To provide East Side access for riders from Long Island, two new tunnels were dug beneath the streets of Queens and Manhattan. You can see photos of one of the tunnel-boring machines here! These tunnels connect to the existing 63rd Street Tunnel below the East River. The new passageways will allow train capacity to and from New York City to increase by 50% when full service is up and running.
Once the train entered the tunnel the excitement built up again. You could catch pieces of conversations where people were marveling at the engineering feat of the new tunnels. Soon, the conductor came on to announce that we had arrived and the passengers broke out into another round of applause!
The station was packed with riders from the first train, press, and everyone wanting to get a first look. Governor Hochul addressed a crowd of reporters starting with “We got the job done!” The governor rode the first train in from Jamaica and described the journey as “extraordinary, smooth, easy bright, and then you come up the escalators over 100 feet and you release this has been a phenomenal accomplishment to get this project done.” “Since 1963 people envisioned a project like this and there were so many roadblocks and challenges along the way,” she continued.
“People who lived and died have never seen this coming to fruition until now, until this very moment. And why? Because this is New York. There is nothing you cannot imagine there’s nothing you can’t do right here in the state of New York,” the Governor exclaimed. “It’s been nearly 110 years to the day since a new terminal, the last major rail terminal opening in our state and the first extension for the Long Island Railroad in 112 years….We have shattered records. We’ve made history and for the lives of our commuters, we’ve made a difference.”
MTA Chair & CEO Janno Lieber pointed out the benefits of the new station for commuters, “This is not going to be what people used to call the Long Island snail road. This is a an increase of capacity that allows people to have more frequent service, more reliable service and more options, not just time savings, options, frequency convenience. And it starts today.”
The new station was supposed to open in December 2022, but multiple delays pushed the opening into the new year. The delayed opening has largely been blamed on a faulty exhaust fan that did not meet code requirements in safety tests. In early December, we did get a small taste of what was to come with a sneak peek at the massive new art installations created by artists like Kiki Smith and Yayoi Kusama. You’ll also find throughout the station quotes about New York from writers and famous figures like Joan Didion and Derek Jeter. Digital screens display historic images of the Long Island Railroad and vintage ads.
In addition to the massive mosaic tile murals created by Smith and Kusama, the station is also full of temporary digital installations. Five monumental LED screens will display original art pieces, starting with works by Gabriel Barcia-Colombo, Jordan Bruner, and Red Nose Studio. Rotating photography lightbox exhibitions, presented in partnership with the International Center of Photography (ICP), also have a prominent place in the new space. A classic part of the subway, Poetry in Motion, presented in partnership with the Poetry Society of America will also have a place in the corridor.
Tour the Secrets of Grand Central
Today’s ride is the first in a limited shuttle service that will run between Jamaica and Grand Central. Trains will operate between 6:15 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on weekdays and from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. on weekends for at least the next three weeks before a full-service schedule goes into effect. The MTA announced that trains will run every 30 minutes in both directions during weekday midday periods and on weekends and once per hour during peak periods. New schedules will be announced for every branch of the LIRR ahead of full service. The station will be open on weekdays from 6:15 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and on weekends from 6:45 a.m. to midnight while Grand Central Direct service is offered.
Follow along here and on Untapped New York’s Instagram as we post live updates from the first train ride into Grand Central Madison! Check out photos from the MTA and our visit to Grand Central Madison in the Gallery below:
Next, check out Top 10 Secrets of Grand Central Madison