Many residents came out to get more information on where the project was headed, as well as to contribute their suggestions and ask questions on how to improve transit in the area.
Recently, Dromm and Crowley made a push to get the shuttered LIRR Elmhurst station – which is on the Port Washington line – open again so that the rapidly growing Elmhurst population could have more transportation options when getting to work in Manhattan or Long Island.
"Elmhurst has seen tremendous change, and this is one of the vibrant and lively communities in New York City," Crowley said. "It's about smarter ways to move people about."
The now-closed station once took passengers going to and from the city, but the LIRR closed the station in 1985 due to low ridership, said LIRR regional transportation planner Jacob Balter. "Only 100 trips a day were taken in 1982," he said.
“Improving the existing public transportation in the area is vitally important for the development of Elmhurst and the surrounding communities in Queens,” Dromm said. “We see the growth that has occurred here and transportation is a very important piece of the growth and transition of this community.”
Dromm noted he is also looking at transportation options because of business development in the area. He stressed that although the LIRR would mean a faster way to get to the city, it would also provide a faster way for visitors to explore Elmhurst and the surrounding areas as a destination spot.
“We've got something here in Elmhurst that other people should know about that will attract people to the area, help economic development and in the long run make Elmhurst a better place to live,” he said.
Over the last 20 years, Elmhurst’s population has increased dramatically, and residents are in need of more transportation options. Advocates of the rail line, including transit advocacy group Transportation Alternatives (TA), say that if the Long Island Rail Road station is re-opened, it will provide Elmhurst residents with a quick, one-seat ride to work, culture and other business in Manhattan’s core.
Officials said that an LIRR train from Elmhurst would arrive in Manhattan within 15 minutes.
“This town hall is the first step in improving Elmhurst’s transportation options,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “The community’s future and prosperity demand a public transit system that is affordable, reliable.”
Transportation Alternatives recently surveyed transit and bus riders around the Elmhurst neighborhood and found that people want cleaner subway stations and more reliable weekend service changes information. They also don't mind paying for better service if they know they're going to get something in return.
One TA representative found that many residents weren't aware of the push to get the LIRR to stop again in the neighborhood. Seventy-three percent of riders said they support the idea.
“People in the community like the idea of having an additional transportation option, whether or not they're going to use it themselves,” said Ya-Ting Liu, the public transit campaign manager at TA who conducted the survey.
According to Liu, some residents were hesitant at the cost of the ride.
If reopened, a one-way ticket during peak hours will cost straphangers $7.25. During off-peak hours it will cost $5. On Saturday and Sunday, the station would be included in the LIRR's City Ticket program for any commuter rail travel within the city at $3.75 per one-way ticket. A monthly, unlimited pass will cost $163 and a weekly, $52.25.
“Now the question is will people pay the fare with the rate of prices,” said Miriam Luvenson, a resident and Community Board 3 member who has lived in the neighborhood for 50 years and remembers when the station was open. “Some won't, but I would like to see it because I'd take it to go to the city,”
Other residents didn't care about the cost as long as a faster option was available.
“It's a little bit expensive, but people don't have to take it if they don't want to,” said 20-year Elmhurst resident Lydia Liesdek.
Reopening the station would cost the LIRR $20 to $30 million if elevators are installed. The agency is looking into installing two elevators to make the track more accessible, if the proposal moves forward.
“We want to make sure that we do all the right planning and take the steps we need to take to make sure we move ahead in a responsible manner,” Balter said. “It's definitely something we're excited about.”
Balter said the LIRR plans to survey people in the area to get an idea of their travel habits and how the LIRR would potentially fit into it.