Long Island Rail Road
LIRR logo.svg
LIRR sampler electric and diesel services.jpg
The Long Island Rail Road provides electric and diesel rail service east-west throughout Long Island, New York.
OwnerMetropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)
Area servedLong Island
LocaleLong Island, New York
Transit typeCommuter rail
Number of lines11
Number of stations124
Chief executivePhilip Eng[1]
HeadquartersJamaica station
Jamaica, New York, United States
Began operation1834 (184 years ago) (1834)
Operator(s)Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Reporting marksLI
System length700 mi (1,100 km) (total track length, not route)
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Top speed80 mph (130 km/h)[2]
System map

Gray lines represent freight-only branches, and other colors represent the corresponding passenger branches.

The Long Island Rail Road (reporting mark LI), legally known as the Long Island Rail Road Company and often abbreviated as the LIRR, is a commuter rail system in the southeastern part of the U.S. state of New York, stretching from Manhattan to the eastern tip of Suffolk County on Long Island. With an average weekday ridership of 354,800 passengers in 2016, it is the busiest commuter railroad in North America.[3][4] It is also one of the world's few commuter systems that runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year-round.[5] It is publicly owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which refers to it as MTA Long Island Rail Road.

The LIRR logo combines the circular MTA logo with the text Long Island Rail Road, and appears on the sides of trains. The LIRR is one of two commuter rail systems owned by the MTA, the other being the Metro-North Railroad. Established in 1834 and having operated continuously since then, it is the second-oldest US railroad still operating under its original name and charter.[6]

There are 124 stations and more than 700 miles (1,100 km) of track[7] on its two lines to the two forks of the island and eight major branches, with the passenger railroad system totaling 319 miles (513 km) of route.[8] As of 2018, the LIRR's budgetary burden for expenditures was $1.6 billion, which it supports through the collection of taxes and fees.[9]


George Bradford Brainerd (American, 1845-1887). Station, Bay Shore, Long Island, September 1879. Collodion silver glass wet plate negative. Brooklyn Museum
LIRR (Montauk & NY) RPO cover (TR27) for the road's 100th anniversary in 1934

The Long Island Rail Road Company was chartered in 1834 to provide a daily service between New York and Boston via a ferry connection between its Greenport, New York, terminal on Long Island's North Fork and Stonington, Connecticut. This service was superseded in 1849 by the land route through Connecticut that became part of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. The LIRR refocused its attentions towards serving Long Island, in competition with other railroads on the island. In the 1870s, railroad president Conrad Poppenhusen and his successor Austin Corbin acquired all the railroads and consolidated them into the LIRR.[10]

The LIRR was unprofitable for much of its history. In 1900, the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) bought a controlling interest as part of its plan for direct access to Manhattan which began on September 8, 1910. The wealthy PRR subsidized the LIRR during the first half of the new century, allowing expansion and modernization.[6] Electric operation began in 1905.[11]

After the Second World War, the railroad industry's downturn and dwindling profits caused the PRR to stop subsidizing the LIRR, and the LIRR went into receivership in 1949. The State of New York, realizing how important the railroad was to Long Island's future, began to subsidize the railroad in the 1950s and 1960s. In June 1965, the state finalized an agreement to buy the LIRR from the PRR for $65 million.[12] The LIRR was placed under the control of a new Metropolitan Commuter Transit Authority.[13] The MCTA was rebranded the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 1968 when it incorporated several other New York City-area transit agencies.[14][15] With MTA subsidies the LIRR modernized further, continuing to be the busiest commuter railroad in the United States.[6]

The LIRR is one of the few railroads that has survived as an intact company from its original charter to the present.[6]

Major stations

The LIRR ticket counter at Penn Station displays all locations accessible from Penn Station.
Long Island City station and yard

The LIRR operates out of three western terminals, in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. Expansion of the system into Grand Central Terminal is expected over the next few years. Major terminals include:

In addition, the Jamaica station is a major hub station and transfer point in Jamaica, Queens. It has eight tracks and five platforms, plus yard and bypass tracks. Passengers can transfer between trains on all LIRR lines except the Port Washington Branch.[7] A sixth platform with two tracks is under construction and will serve Atlantic Branch shuttle trains to Brooklyn once completed.[19] Transfer is also made to separate facilities for three subway services at the Sutphin Boulevard–Archer Avenue–JFK station (E​, ​J, and ​Z trains), a number of bus routes, and the AirTrain automated electric rail system to JFK Airport.[20] The railroad's headquarters are next to the station.[21]

Passenger lines and services

Schematic of LIRR's routes, as well as the fare zones. This schematic is not to scale.

The Long Island Rail Road system has eleven passenger branches. Three of them are considered main trunk lines:

They spin off eight minor branches. For scheduling and advertising purposes some of these branches are divided into sections such as the case with the Montauk Branch, which is known as the Babylon Branch service in the electrified portion of the line between Jamaica and Babylon, while the diesel service beyond Babylon to Montauk is referred to as the Montauk Branch service. All branches except the Port Washington Branch pass through Jamaica; the trackage west of Jamaica (except the Port Washington Branch) is known as the City Terminal Zone. The City Terminal Zone includes portions of the Main Line and Atlantic Branches as well as the Amtrak-owned East River Tunnels to Penn Station.

Current branches

  • The Main Line runs from Long Island City east to Greenport. It is electrified west of Ronkonkoma; limited diesel train service runs from this point to Yaphank, Riverhead, or Greenport. Trains using the East River Tunnels from New York Penn Station join the line at Sunnyside Yard. The services that run along this line are named after the branches they use; trains beyond Hicksville (where the Port Jefferson Branch splits), are known as Ronkonkoma Branch and Greenport Branch trains.
  • The Montauk Branch runs from Long Island City east to Montauk, with junctions with the Main Line at Long Island City and Jamaica. It is electrified from Jamaica east to Babylon; only diesel trains can use the "Lower Montauk" section west of Jamaica,

which is freight-only, or the outer section east of Babylon. Train operating east of Babylon are listed as Montauk Branch service; trains using the line from Lynbrook to Babylon are labeled Babylon Branch trains.