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Queens Chronicle

Crowds Overrun LIRR Station While Traffic Crawls In Jamaica

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Posted: Thursday, December 22, 2005 12:00 am

Bryan Sand began the commute from his Cambria Heights home to his job in Manhattan shortly after 6 a.m. on Tuesday. By 11 a.m. he had not even made it out of Southeastern Queens.

The transit strike forced him to wait two hours in near-freezing temperatures to board a dollar van bound for Jamaica Station.

The van crawled toward the station for over two hours in the parking lot that Jamaica Avenue had become. Once free of the van, he waited in the cold once again in a line that doubled back on itself for the length of the block outside Jamaica Station.

An hour later, inside the unheated station, he purchased a $4 discounted strike ticket. Fare in hand he rushed out of the station again, and around the block through another maze of temporary barriers. At the end, a LIRR employee dressed in a woolen hat and a bright orange jacket bellowed repeatedly into a megaphone. “Penn Station and Brooklyn, that direction.”

Sand followed the instructions and joined hundreds of other commuters on the platform ready to board an inbound train. “I have to go to work,” he said. “If I don’t work, I don’t get paid.”

Sand’s lengthy trip was typical of the travelers filing in and out of Jamaica Station Tuesday morning. Sandra Singh grabbed a cab on 174th street in Manhattan at 10 a.m. and crossed through Jamaica Station on her way to Long Island shortly after noon. After traversing Jamaica Avenue, the cab dropped her several blocks from the station in an unfamiliar neighborhood.

“It was so difficult to reach here,” she said.

In order to handle the crowds, the city closed all the streets surrounding the station. Archer Avenue was shut down from 143rd to 150th Street. Sutphin Boulevard was closed from Jamaica Avenue to 95th Avenue. Traffic spilled onto the surrounding roads making them virtually impassable.

Cab drivers were forced to park blocks away, then troll the line trying to convince three fares to share a ride. Morning passenger limits into Manhattan forced most car services to offer only local service. “It’s been really slow,” said Bryan Tavoli, a livery cab driver, who had only made one trip during the morning rush. “It’s not easy to get four people.”

A hefty platoon of policemen began the day regulating the crowds, backed up by a helicopter hovering overhead. By noon, however, their numbers had dwindled as the line shrank and tempers remained in check.

LIRR employees tried to direct confused commuters, but at points they seemed as befuddled as the travelers. “It changes minute by minute,” muttered a ticket taker as a new wave of travelers rushed toward the platform.

The confusion bothered at least one customer. Greg Edwards of Jamaica had his everyday commute through the station disrupted by the crowds.

“None of the LIRR people know what to do. It took longer than it should have. I don’t know why I had to wait in line to use my debit card. I had to leave an extra hour early,” he said.

More changes took effect Wednesday morning as the LIRR coped with the increase in riders. Regularly scheduled trains were replaced by shuttle trains at 15 minute intervals at Jamaica, Kew Gardens, Forest Hills, and Woodside between 6 and 9 a.m. and again between 4 and 7 p.m. In addition, the railroad stopped service to Bellerose, Hollis, Rosedale, Locust Manor, St. Albans, Little Neck, Douglaston, Auburndale, Broadway, Murray Hill, Flushing/Main Street, and Shea Stadium during the morning and afternoon commutes.

To replace the closed stations the company added trains at Queens Village, Valley Stream, Laurelton, Great Neck and Bayside.

All stations will be open during off-peak hours with shuttle trains added to regularly scheduled service. The LIRR’s customer service line is 718-217-5477.

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