Remember that time the Super Bowl was held at Metlife Stadium in the Meadowlands, and it took hours for the crowds to leave by train? NJ Transit came under fire for its perceived mismanagement of the Super Bowl.
The same problems beleaguered the Long Island Railroad’s special event service to the 2014 Belmont Stakes, attended by about 100,000 spectators. 36,000 spectators traveled by train to Belmont Park, versus 33,000 who took NJ Transit to the Super Bowl. It took hours for some to board a train home.
In order to not repeat its 2014 failures, the LIRR has invested in upgrades to its station at Belmont Park. Belmont Park was previously the only station on the LIRR without high-level platforms. LIRR trains have no stairs for passengers to board at low-level platforms, so Belmont Park’s four platforms had built-in stairs to access trains. These made boarding/unloading a train a slow process, and were not ADA accessible.
The LIRR spent $5 million to upgrade two of these platforms to regular high-level platforms, $1 million of which came from the New York Racing Association, which owns the racetrack. Time lapse video below:
The new platforms also can accommodate 10-car trains, whereas the previous ones only took 8-car trains.
Last year, trains full of passengers were stuck at Belmont Park, waiting for a slot to depart. One track was used for trains in either direction. The station is located on a wye, with two tracks to the Main Line, one in each direction. This year, the LIRR is adopting a new service plan that uses both legs of the wye.
One leg of the wye will be used to store trains waiting to enter the station, and the other will be used for departing trains. This will allow trains to depart Belmont Park more frequently.
To accommodate this, regular trains to Hempstead will be cut back to every two hours in each direction.
Attendance at this year’s Belmont Stakes will be lower than last year’s, with a cap of 90,000 tickets sold.