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LIRR doubling service to Islanders games this coming season (and MTA is paying)

Last month, various news outlets reported on expanded service to the Barclays Center for New York Islanders fans, based on an MTA press release headlined LIRR to Double Service to New York Islanders Games Compared With Start of Last Season, with the subheading "Same Number of Trains to Be Provided As During 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Barclays Center."

This means a fourth post-game train, bound for Ronkonkoma, and doubles the service from the start of last season.

“More and more Islanders fans have found the LIRR to be the quickest and most convenient way to and from Barclays Center,” said MTA Long Island Rail Road President Patrick A. Nowakowski. “We anticipate continued growth in ridership to Brooklyn as the Islanders begin their second season there." Arena operators are giving LIRR riders a 10% discount on tickets for select games.

The background: in the first season, about 40 percent of Islanders fans attending games at Barclays Center travelled the LIRR to Atlantic Terminal. The LIRR added two post-event trains for weekday games and two pre-event and two post-event trains for weekend games with direct service to Babylon and Farmingdale. Two months into the season, the LIRR increased that to three trains, and when the Islanders reached the playoffs last spring, a fourth train was provided in each category.

A writer at Eyes on Isles suggested that more trains should limit overcrowding and thus diminish rowdy behavior. One season ticket said he worries about safety, including the impact on his young kids: “The cursing is out of control, people have zero respect or tact when kids are around.” 

So maybe arena neighbors who worry about rowdy fans have a point.

Enhanced service includes the following:
Weekdays: 4 Post-Game Eastbound TrainsBeginning with the Islanders first pre-season game on Monday, September 26, the LIRR will have four eastbound post-game trains on weekdays departing from Atlantic Terminal. Two trains will provide direct service to Babylon and one each to Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma. Customers bound for other eastbound destinations will change at Jamaica for their home branch.
Weekends: 4 Pre-Game Westbound & Post-Game Eastbound TrainsOn weekends, the LIRR will supplement its regular westbound service with four westbound pre-game trains direct to Atlantic Terminal, two direct from Babylon and one each from Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma. It will also run four eastbound post-game trains from Atlantic Terminal, two direct to Babylon and one each to Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma. Fans traveling to and from other destinations will change at Jamaica for their home branch.
2 Additional Post-Game Brooklyn-to-Jamaica Shuttle Trains AvailableAdditionally, for select high-demand games, whether on weekdays or weekends, two additional Brooklyn-to-Jamaica post-game shuttle trains will be available for customers who change at Jamaica for other eastbound branches. Remember that during games, Barclays Center posts LIRR train schedules in real ¬time on monitors located throughout the concourse and on the center¬ hung scoreboard.
Who's paying?

As is typical, the MTA pays for increased service, and is reimbursed only by venues in special cases. MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan explained:
We’re reimbursed by the New York Racing Association for the special trains we run to Belmont Park. That service is different in nature from trains to any of the other sports venues we serve because trains to Belmont Park station meet both of these criteria. a) They serve a spur that has no other service except for special event service to Belmont. (The other sports venues are served by main line trains.) b) Belmont Park track is the only destination accessible from the rail station; there is no other reason a customer would use that service except to reach the track.
According to MTA figures as of 2010, passenger revenue on Babylon trains paid for 88% of peak train costs and 32% on off-peak and weekend trains. For Ronkonkoma, the figures were 95% and 40%. Farmingdale trains are part of the Ronkonkoma line. (See LIRR map.)

So, does this represent a subsidy from the public? Donovan pointed out that "it's unlikely that these are 'average' trains given the special nature of the service" and, presumably, a higher percentage of passengers. And if fans drive that imposes other costs.

So it's hard to tell, without passenger count and new cost estimates. 

Still, we should remember that, when planning the Barclays Center, developer Forest City Ratner promised to pay for a bundled subway ticket to encourage people to use public transit, then backed off, after calculating that many fans already had unlimited ride passes. 

In that case, increased transit usage would have cost the arena operator, and extra spending would have gone to the public agency. In this case, other than the unspecified games in which there's a 10% discount, the extra transit usage doesn't cost the arena operator.

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