A project years in the works, LIRR and elected officials last Wednesday officially opened the fully renovated Flushing-Main Street station.
“The rehabilitation of the Flushing-Main Street station is a project for which I’ve strongly advocated since it was first announced many years ago, back when I was a member of the Assembly,” said Congresswoman Grace Meng. “These long-awaited upgrades will finally modernize this facility and bring it into the 21st century.”
One of the most notable upgrades is two new elevators, which makes the station fully compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
“We are pleased to be able to make this station fully accessible to all of our customers,” said LIRR president Phil Eng. “We hope our improvements will transform a station that was inaccessible and mostly hidden from public view into an inviting and prominent community landmark.”
As far as appearance, the new station is a vast improvement over the drab one it replaced. The Main Street entrance is now wider and features prominent signage, while the smaller entrance from 40th Road was also given a makeover.
When the station was built in 1913, the 40th Road entrance was just a narrow stairway between two buildings and was the only way to access the westbound platform.
The old ticket office was demolished as part of the $24.6 million project, which after years of discussion was finally started in 2016. Other upgrades include an open plaza for future retail kiosks, USB charging ports, and a new public address system.
“Today’s grand re-opening of the LIRR Flushing-Main Street Station is a major milestone for Flushing and for all of Queens,” said Borough President Melinda Katz. “This critical transportation center is now accessible to everyone who travels to and from Flushing, a vibrant and fast-growing community
More than 2,200 rider use the Flushing-Main Street station on an average weekday, making it the 50th busiest of the LIRR's 124 stations, and the ninth busiest in Queens. But Comptroller Scott Stringer would like to see that number grow.
The day before the station opened, Stringer called on the MTA to reduce the fare on Metro-North and the LIRR to the price of a Metrocard swipe - $2.75 – for trips within the five boroughs, as well as allow free transfers between the rail lines and subways.
He argues that many more commuters would use the service if not for the prohibitively high cost, which can cost as much as four times as much as a trip on the subway.
Stringer says it would dramatically increase transit options in 31 neighborhoods in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens that have either Metro-North or LIRR stations. It would be a new transit option for an estimated 1.4 million city residents.
“While commuter rail tracks carve through the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, working New Yorkers are stuck behind an unacceptable paywall, forced to pay an exorbitant amount or spend extra hours stuck on overcrowded subways and buses,” said Stringer.
The comptroller said opening up 38 stations in the three boroughs to commuter service would cost about $50 million annually. Conversely, it cost $7 billion and took ten years to open four new stations along Second Avenue and at Hudson Yards.
According to the comptroller's office, the average rush-hour LIRR train has 233 empty seats during the morning commute and 282 empty seats during the evening commute.
A trip on the LIRR from Queens Village to Penn Station takes about 35 minutes, while the same trip on the subway and local bus takes 80 minutes.
“The district that I represent in Eastern Queens has no subway stations and some of the slowest buses in the city,” said Councilman Barry Grodenchik. “The LIRR is often the most reasonable choice for commuters in our neighborhoods, and it should be affordable.”