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LIRR prepares for GOP convention

(The following story by Joie Tyrrell appeared on the Newsday website on July 28.)

NEW YORK -- Long Island Rail Road commuters will find red, white and blue travel advisory brochures on their train seats Wednesday morning as the railroad prepares passengers for the inconvenience of having the Republican National Convention upstairs from Penn Station next month.

The brochures include maps of the station, highlighting the two out of six exits that will be open during the convention. It also will have maps of subway transfer points for commuters who want to avoid Penn completely from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2. The convention will be in Madison Square Garden.

"We hope that people will find the maps helpful," said LIRR spokesman Brian Dolan. "We will be providing normal service. What has changed is the number of entrances and exits that will be available."

The railroad will distribute brochures Wednesday on trains system-wide during the morning rush hour and the advisories will be available at stations along with regular timetables.

The advisory includes alternatives to traveling to Penn such as going to Hunterspoint Avenue in Long Island City, Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, and Jamaica to connect with existing subway service. However, Hunterspoint Avenue service is only available during rush hour and railroad officials said they will not be adding any more trains.

"We are not dissuading anyone from going to Penn," Dolan said. "We are offering options."

The only two exits that will be open at Penn Station will be the railroad's main entrance at 34th Street west of Seventh Avenue and the Amtrak entrance at 32nd Street and Seventh Avenue.

Earlier this week, Amtrak released its strategy for dealing with the Republican convention. Amtrak will run regular service into Penn during the convention but is requiring customers to make reservations for nearly all of its New York City trains.

The all-reserved service will be effective from Saturday, Aug. 28 to Thursday, Sept. 2.

"I don't think it will be an inconvenience," said Marcie Golgoski, Amtrak spokeswoman. "This is the same thing we have done over the holiday season ... It guarantees our passengers a seat and space on train.

There will be no new restrictions on carry-on luggage, but all bags will require identification tags. All trains will undergo security sweeps prior to initial departures and passengers on both Amtrak and the LIRR should expect en-route security inspections as well.

NJ Transit, which also shares Penn with the LIRR and Amtrak, had already announced it will reroute some trains and seal bathrooms and on-board trash cans.

James McGovern, chair of the LIRR Commuter's Council who commutes from Plandome, said he plans to travel to Penn during the convention. The LIRR is not restricting bags but asked commuters to consider leaving any unnecessary bags or luggage at home.

"I don't think it is going to be as bad as people are making it out to be," McGovern said. "It is a really slow work week."

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

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