Jamaica

Jamaica is a major hub station of the Long Island Rail Road, and is located in Jamaica, Queens, New York City. It is the largest transit hub on Long Island and is one of the busiest railroad stations in the country with over 200,000 daily passengers. In the New York City area, it ranks only behind Pennsylvania Station, Grand Central Terminal, and Secaucus Junction, with over 1,000 trains passing through it every day, while there is a direct rail connection to John F. Kennedy International Airport via AirTrain JFK. There are also elevator connections to the Archer Avenue Line of the New York City Subway at Sutphin Boulevard – Archer Avenue (E J Z trains), directly below. The area just outside is served by several local bus routes, with more available within a few blocks of the station.

All LIRR services except the Port Washington Branch pass through Jamaica Station. The Main Line westwards leads to Long Island City and Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan, while the Atlantic Branch diverges along Atlantic Avenue to Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn. The Montauk Branch also serves one daily trip to Long Island City. East of Jamaica, these three lines diverge, with some branch services using the Main Line, some using the Atlantic Branch, and some using the Montauk Branch.

Because of its central location on all services (except the Port Washington Branch), it is common for commuters to "change at Jamaica," i.e., switch trains to reach their final destination.

History

The present Jamaica Station was built between 1912 and 1913 as a replacement for two former stations in Jamaica. The first was the LIRR's original Jamaica Station (“Old Jamaica”), built c. 1836 as the terminus of the LIRR. It was remodeled in 1869 and again in 1872, only to be completely rebuilt between 1882-83 adjacent to and in use concurrently with the original depot. Covered platforms were later installed. The other station known as Jamaica-Beaver Street was built by the South Side Railroad of Long Island on the Atlantic Branch (see below).

Both stations were discontinued as station stops. "Old Jamaica" station at what is now 153rd St (0.4 mile east of the present station) was razed in 1912 with the grade elimination project, the "Jamaica Improvements"; Jamaica-Beaver Street Station was razed with the grade elimination in 1913. The 1912-13 "Jamaica Improvement" was the final step in consolidating the branch lines of the LIRR. To the west of the station "Jay Interlocking" was built, and to the east "Hall Interlocking." These interlockings allowed any line to reach any other line, allowing easy transfer between lines at Jamaica Station, which is the hallmark of current day LIRR service.

When the new station opened residents of Jamaica were dissatisfied with its location; downtown Jamaica was centered around Union Hall Street, 0.6 mile east of the new station at Sutphin Boulevard and Archer Avenue. The LIRR thus decided to add a new Union Hall Street station in 1913.

Beaver Street Station

Jamaica-Beaver Street station was built by the South Side Railroad of Long Island for what is today the Atlantic Branch on October 28, 1867. It was razed in 1871 and replaced on Christmas Day of the same year. When the LIRR acquired the SSRRLI in 1867, the depot was moved to the south side of Beaver Street crossing on a stub track. Low platforms for this station stop were located on the north side of Beaver Street crossing. Timetables of the period show station stop as "Jamaica" for Atlantic Branch trains bound for Locust Avenue, Springfield, and Valley Stream, as "Old Southern Road" Station. From 1908-1913, the station stop was listed as "Jamaica (Beaver Street)." Jamaica-Beaver Street Station was razed with the grade elimination in 1913 and relocation into the current complex during the Jamaica Improvement Project. No trace of the station exists today.

2001-2006 expansion

In 2006, the MTA completed a $387 million renovation project, begun in 2001 and carried out in conjunction with the construction of AirTrain JFK's terminal (the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey contributed $100 million toward the project).

The project had two goals: Passenger-oriented renovations included new platforms and pedestrian bridge, a central elevator bank linking the LIRR to the street and to the Sutphin Blvd subway station, a new mezzanine connecting to AirTrain and a new steel and glass canopy over the elevated tracks. The focal point of the project was the Jamaica Control Center, built by Tishman Construction Corporation and Bechtel. The JCC houses the LIRR offices, railroad control center and MTA Police. Overall, the renovations enlarged the station and have made it more modern and efficient, providing easier access to all eight LIRR tracks. The entire station complex, including AirTrain and the subway, is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The project was named "2006 Project of the Year" by the Long Island branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Configuration and operation

Jamaica is the Long Island Rail Road's hub station. There are five high-level island platforms each 1000 feet long, almost 12 cars; a train on track 2 or track 7 can be entered from platforms on either side, allowing passengers to quickly transfer between three trains at once. During the morning rush westbound trains from three different lines bound for three different terminals are scheduled to arrive at Jamaica simultaneously on tracks 1, 2, and 3. Passengers can cross to the train for their destination by passing through the train on track 2 (or by the stairs). In the evening the process is reversed: trains from three New York terminals destined for three branches arrive on tracks 6, 7, and 8 and allow commuters to cross to the desired outbound train. The middle tracks – 4 and 5 – share a platform which is used during rush hours to allow passengers to transfer to their destination train on the other side of the platform.

Travel time is around the same 20 minutes for the 11.3 miles from Jamaica station to Penn Station in Midtown or for the 9.3 miles to Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn. As of April 3, 2011 the public timetables show 169 weekday trains from Penn Station to or through Jamaica, 62 from Brooklyn, and nine from LIC/Hunterspoint Ave. All but two of those trains continue east from Jamaica along with 28 weekday trains that originate there.

The main entrance to the station, where tickets may be purchased and where waiting areas are located, is a 100-year old building that also serves as the offices and headquarters of the Long Island Rail Road Company.

Bus and rail connections

New York City Subway:

  • Sutphin Boulevard – Archer Avenue – JFK Airport station on the Archer Avenue Line (E J Z trains)

NYCT Bus:

  • Q20A: to Archer Avenue/Merrick Boulevard or College Point (via 20th Avenue), via Main Street.
  • Q20B: to Archer Avenue/Merrick Boulevard or College Point (via 14th Avenue), via Main Street.
  • Q24: to Archer Avenue/168th Street or Bushwick, Brooklyn, via Atlantic Avenue.
  • Q30: to Little Neck via Utopia Parkway.
  • Q31: to Bayside via Utopia Parkway.
  • Q43: to Floral Park via Hillside Avenue.
  • Q44: to Archer Avenue/Merrick Boulevard or Bronx Zoo via Main Street.
  • Q54: to Jamaica Avenue/171st Street or Williamsburg, Brooklyn, via Metropolitan Avenue.
  • Q56: to Jamaica Avenue/171st Street or Broadway Junction, East New York, Brooklyn, via Jamaica Avenue.

MTA Bus Company:

  • Q6: to North Cargo Road, John F. Kennedy International Airport, or 165th Street Bus Terminal via Sutphin Boulevard.
  • Q8: to Gateway Center Mall, Starrett City, Brooklyn, or 165th Street Bus Terminal via 101st Avenue.
  • Q9: to South Ozone Park or 165th Street Bus Terminal via Sutphin Boulevard, Van Wyck Expressway, and Lincoln Street.
  • Q25: to College Point via Parsons Boulevard.
  • Q34: to Whitestone via Parsons Boulevard.
  • Q40: to South Jamaica or 165th Street Bus Terminal via Sutphin Boulevard, Lakewood Avenue, and 142nd Street.
  • Q41: to Lindenwood or 165th Street Bus Terminal via 127th Street and Cross Bay Boulevard.
  • Q60: to South Jamaica or Midtown Manhattan via Queens Boulevard.
  • Q65: to College Point via 164th Street and College Point Boulevard.

AirTrain JFK

AirTrain station

The AirTrain station, located in an enclosed glass structure to the south of the LIRR platforms, has 2 tracks and 1 island platform. It is accessed by escalator or elevator from street level as well via as an enclosed bridge connecting it to the LIRR station. The station features platform edge doors to prevent passengers from accessing the trackbed. An array of sensors detect a train's position on the track, and only when it is properly aligned the doors will open. This enables the AirTrain to operate automatically without drivers. West of the station the track curves to the left and runs south, above the Van Wyck Expressway.

Trains depart for JFK every 7 minutes during peak hours, and every 10 minutes during other times of the day. Between 8pm and 4am there are 4 trains per hour. Displays at the station indicate train departure times along with flight status information. Entering or exiting the station costs $5 and must be paid by MetroCard, which can be obtained from ticket machines at the station

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