After writing a post about how easy taking the Metro-North is, I can say that taking the Long Island Railroad is EVEN EASIER!
I say this, because at first I was a little intimidated – but now after taking the LIRR about four times, I feel that I can officially give some pointers.
Background: the LIRR runs from Penn Station and is the “busiest commuter railroad in North America, carrying about 265,000 customers each weekday on 735 daily trains” (MTA). It has 11 different branches.
My LIRR pointers:
1) Plan ahead – look at the train schedule online beforehand.
If you visit the MTA website, you are able to plug in your final destination. It will tell you what time your respective train departs and your estimated time of arrival.
2) USE CASH
Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way and missed my original scheduled train as the LIRR ticket booth could not read my Visa credit card. (How that even happens, I still don’t know).
3) Understand what peak and off-peak means.
I didn’t know this beforehand. Peak: When most travelers are traveling. “Peak travel applies to all westbound weekday morning trains scheduled to arrive western terminals between 6 AM and 10 AM and all eastbound weekday trains scheduled to depart western terminals between 4 PM and 8 PM” (MTA). Off-peak: When most travelers are not traveling (Aka: the opposite of peak). These tickets are about 30% cheaper.
When trains are running on peak, there is a train every 10 minutes. Off-peak trains run every 30 minutes.
4) If you know you are going to be traveling back and forth often within two weeks, buy those rides in advance.
I say this because the lines at Penn station for tickets is absurdly long…especially the cash only machines which you’ll want to use (See pointer #2).
Which leads me to…
5) You cannot get away with not buying a ticket.
Oops – yes, it happened. When returning to the city from Long Island, you must also, shockingly, purchase a ticket. Unfortunately, I was running very late to catch my scheduled off-peak train and literally hopped on the train right before it left. I honestly was not thinking and clearly did not have enough patience to buy a ticket from the booth and wait another 30 minutes for the next train.
This led to my $14 fine from MTA for riding without a ticket – which should be another adventure point itself.
Thankfully, you can call MTA 8AM-5PM Monday-Friday and give them your credit card number and settle the difference.