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Jun 7, 2016 12:25 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

LIRR, Local Officials To Discuss Permanent South Fork Shuttle Service

The proposed South Fork shuttle service would bring commuters from train stations to village and town centers. KELLY ZEGERS
Jun 7, 2016 2:35 PM

Officials are working on a plan to re-launch a shuttle service between South Fork train stations and workplaces, which commuters had the chance to try out from fall 2007 to spring 2008—and make it a permanent public transportation option.

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. met with Long Island Rail Road President Patrick Nowakowski on May 19 to come up with a strategy, and he said the talks were productive.

“The LIRR is willing to consider returning the service and making it permanent—if we can demonstrate local support,” Mr. Thiele said afterward.

However, he said, the train service is only part of the equation: There also needs to be a plan to provide transportation from railroad stations to destinations like downtown areas, schools and hospitals, he said. In addition, there would have to be a marketing plan to encourage residents to use the trains, funds to support the program, and cooperation from local business and government.

“We will need these things to convince the LIRR to move forward,” Mr. Thiele said.

A South Fork shuttle service operated on a pilot basis nearly a decade ago, while an eastbound lane was being added to County Road 39, so that commuters could avoid lengthy construction delays. The service during that time, known as the South Fork Commuter-Connection, added three eastbound and three westbound LIRR trains between Speonk and Montauk, as well as connecting buses provided by Southampton and East Hampton towns.

While construction on County Road 39 was ongoing, ridership hit about 8,000 a month, or about 200 riders each day, but it fell off to about 3,200 following the completion of the additional traffic lane on the highway, according to the East End Transportation Study, a report commissioned by the five East End towns in September 2009. The service was most popular among white-collar workers, teachers and retail business employees, according to a survey.

The additional trains and shuttles were halted in May 2008, more than a month after the new lane was completed, although Mr. Thiele and others had pushed, unsuccessfully, for the service to return in the fall of 2008.

A new development this time around is that services like Uber could possibly become part of the shuttle system, Mr. Thiele said. The question, however, is whether local governments would be willing to work with Uber, which does not operate within East Hampton Town.

For his part, East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell reacted positively to news of Mr. Thiele’s meeting with LIRR leadership. “This is a major breakthrough in getting the Long Island Rail Road to agree to talk about this,” he said. “For many years, this has been a major issue for us … trying to push forward mass transit on the South Fork.”

In July, when the strategy meeting is set to be held, Mr. Thiele said wants to learn whether the towns and villages want to pursue the return of a shuttle service, if they are willing to provide resources necessary to do so, and if a timetable can be established.

Staff writer Michael Wright contributed to this story.

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YESSSsssssss. Finally. Won't be the solution but definitely will help.
By H2O (85), easthampton on Jun 7, 16 2:06 PM
Worth a try.
By Hamptonsseashell (359), on Jun 7, 16 2:37 PM
we've enabled single occupant vehicles by adding lanes. We need to cut the lanes back again and stress the shuttle. Make it mandatory for businesses of more than 5 people. If someone needs a car at lunchtime, the company provides one. We locals are accommodating the people from up West. Our place looks like Hell now., as well as scores of accidents almost every day. I also think upping the speed limit is the worst idea ever. Let's quit being enablers. Eh?
By clamdigger (85), Quogue on Jun 7, 16 4:44 PM
1 member liked this comment
Unfortunately this is only one piece of a puzzle and without the other pieces moving into place it is doomed to failure.
1. Parking. You need free, secure parking at stations so people can leave cars.
2. Access. Speonk is an out of the way station to get to if your coming from up West. Sunrise exit at Riverhead Rd would help a lot.
3. Running just a couple of full length trains will not be nearly as useful as multiples of 2 car light shuttles and that won't happen with the MTA running ...more
By bird (829), Sag Harbor on Jun 7, 16 7:44 PM
A good first step -- well done Mr. Thiele.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jun 7, 16 7:59 PM
1 member liked this comment
Great Idea!
By LovinLife (61), East Quogue on Jun 7, 16 8:34 PM
Great Idea!
By LovinLife (61), East Quogue on Jun 7, 16 8:34 PM
Force businesses?
Seize railroads?
Shuttles not a bad idea but...
By jams (129), hampton bays on Jun 8, 16 7:53 AM
1 member liked this comment
Why have these discussions in June? This should have started last year so some type of system could have been in place by this summer. Another summer with impossible traffic. Is Thiele up for reelection in the fall? I wonder how long his attention span on this issue will be. Remember gasoline pricing...

This plan will not dent the trade traffic that clogs up the back roads. These people need to lug around their equipment. It would help some people that work in hamlets, but what about the ...more
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Jun 8, 16 8:48 AM
1 member liked this comment
The LIRR doesn't have enough equipment to even entertain the idea of supporting this. The current diesel fleet is too small, there aren't enough cab cars to operate shuttle trains, and the current fleet allocation barely allows existing service to operate. When there's an equipment failure, guess what? wait for the bus. The dual mode diesels have higher MTBF than the regular diesels for some reason so whatever is available will probably impact the existing service plans.

Thiele should ...more
By EricTyrer (1), Greenport, New York on Jun 9, 16 11:51 AM
MTBF? You might have a point to make here but it is buried in "geek speak." People here are concerned about traffic not the nuances of choo-choo trains.

Supposedly the money was available but suitable vehicles were not. I've seen the streetcars in Houston but whether they could be adapted to fit the bill here or not has not been explained. Your post does nothing to change that.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jun 11, 16 10:10 PM
How about also adding more frequent train times in the morning and afternoon as well
By Searider (4), Flanders on Jun 11, 16 9:08 PM
1 member liked this comment