As weekend ridership grows, Metro-North will give New Haven Line riders more elbow room on Saturdays and Sundays with more than two dozen extra trains in both directions.

The expanded service is expected to begin in October and should be enough to offer trips on the half hour both north and south on the line, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority which announced the plan last week.

In April, an additional eight trains between Grand Central Terminal and Stamford will be added to meet a traditionally higher demand for service outbound to Stamford during the spring and summer months.

Elaine Foreman, a White Plains, N.Y., resident said the added frequency will assist her on Sundays when she frequently uses the train for medical appointments in Stamford or at Greenwich Hospital.

"It's good that they are filling up the schedule because when the train only comes on the hour it can be a pain," the 51-year-old said.

The changes were announced Thursday as part of a plan to add 230 mostly weekend trains, 170 of them on the Hudson and Harlem lines. The majority of the new service pushes the frequency above levels before a series of rail service cuts in 2010 to resolve the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's fiscal crisis.

Weekend service and other non-commutation trips are growing at a much faster clip than ridership during the weekday morning rush hour, officials said.

In the first four months of the year, intermediate trips between stations on the New Haven Line outside the morning and evening peak periods grew 10.1 percent. The railroad's peak weekday periods are 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

"Metro-North is projecting record ridership of over 85 million rail rides in 2012, its highest ever," said Metro-North President Howard Permut. "We are gratified to be able to add service where it's most needed -- on weekends and in the off-peak periods. By establishing 30-minute headways where we now offer only hourly service, we make the railroad an even more attractive choice and we expect ridership to grow even more as a result of these initiatives."

Connecticut Rail Commuter Council Chairman Jim Cameron said that the increased Connecticut service is an encouraging sign showing that railway administrators are being financially smart by targeting new runs where ridership is growing most.

"We know the weekend discretionary riders have been a very important area of growth for the railroad and their ridership and fares help subsidize the ridership on Monday through Friday," Cameron said. "They deserve credit for recognizing ridership is strong and being proactive to meet it."

On Sunday at the Stamford train station, Jim Sheridan, a 41-year-old resident of Manhattan's Upper East Side said that inbound trains to Grand Central are the most full on Sunday nights when many people return from weekend trips to Connecticut to New York City.

Sheridan, a Dublin, Ireland, native who visits friends in Stamford every other weekend said there was usually ample room on Sunday afternoon trains.

"It isn't crowded most of the time but it can be on Sunday nights or on days of Yankees games," Sheridan said. "I usually have no problem scheduling and timing my trips back to New York conveniently and having a seat."

Metro-North is projecting a record ridership of 85 million trips in 2012, well in excess of the previous established record of 83.6 million rides in 2008.

Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker said that the additional service was responsive to ridership trends and calls for more frequent service.

"The Connecticut DOT and Metro-North have worked together to provide cost-effective service investments to meet increasing ridership demand in the weekend travel market segment," Redeker said. "Expanding half-hour service frequency provides a wider scope of train service to meet the needs of existing riders and to attract new customers to the New Haven Line."

martin.cassidy@scni.com, 203-964-2264, twitter.com/martincassidyst.