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Aug 2, 2017 10:34 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

LIRR Could Start Offering Additional South Fork Service Within Two Years

Additional trains will be added to alleviate traffic during morning and afternoon rush hours. PRESS FILE
Aug 2, 2017 10:52 AM

It’s a shimmering dream of many disgruntled commuters gazing out onto the vast expense of bumper-to-bumper traffic on Sunrise and Montauk highways: a reliable public transportation option to remove vehicles from both routinely clogged South Fork arteries.

And it could be a reality within two years, according to officials.

At a meeting last month, four representatives of the Long Island Rail Road—Steve Ellinghaus, George Fletcher, Mike Bendick and Kyle McGraw—shared with some of the East End’s elected leaders a tentative timetable for the introduction of additional train service on both the North and South Forks.

“There would be three additional trains in the morning heading east and three trains heading west in the afternoon,” said State Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr., one of the elected officials who attended the meeting held on July 7, regarding the additional trains that would be offered on the LIRR’s Montauk branch. “And then the town is working with the state to provide bus transportation that would get people that last mile or so.”

The bus shuttles, continued Mr. Thiele, a longtime advocate for additional LIRR service on the South Fork, would transport train commuters to various town centers, including downtown business districts, government buildings and even Southampton Hospital.

The goal of the initiative, dubbed the Commuter Connection, is to alleviate some of the heavy congestion on the South Fork’s two main east-west arteries.

“We’re proposing the Commuter Connection in the hope of reducing traffic congestion on [Sunrise Highway] by providing motorists with a rail-transit alternative, and the hope of stimulating the East End economy by offering an environmentally friendly way to travel within the South Fork,” said Aaron Donovan, the LIRR’s director for external communications.

Those residing and commuting on the North Fork, which is serviced by the LIRR’s Greenport branch, could see some commuting relief as early as the fall, according to Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, who sent a representative to last month's meeting with the LIRR and whose district includes the entire South Fork.

“They’re to increase service in the North Fork in the fall, which would be weekday expansion first and, then in the spring, expanding the weekend service,” said Ms. Fleming, a former Southampton Town councilwoman. “The South Fork timetable is further out … I don’t think we’ll have changes to the South Fork schedule until early 2019.”

The expanded service would arrive on the North Fork first, Mr. Donovan explained, because the Greenport line already has the necessary infrastructure in place. To offer additional services on that line, he said the LIRR simply needs to adjust the schedules of trains running between Ronkonkoma and Greenport, and back. He added that the LIRR intends to add another westbound train originating from Greenport during the week, and increase service overall on summer weekends.

But to add service on the Montauk branch, Mr. Donovan continued, the LIRR must not only readjust existing schedules, but also lease and re-purpose certain equipment, including locomotives and passenger cars. Additionally, some sections of track and traffic signals would have to receive updates, he said.

“The LIRR is improving their signal service right now—there is a dark area, so you call ahead to find out who’s down the track instead of using signals,” Mr. Thiele said. “They’re completing that so there will be signalization all the way down to Montauk. That signalization won’t be done until 2018.”

Mr. Donovan added that the LIRR is also implementing a federally mandated Positive Train Control system that requires taking trains out of service and testing them, further hampering efforts to provide additional trains.

At the same time, the LIRR could offer one change as early as next spring. If the signal upgrades are completed on time, a peak morning train that now leaves from Speonk at 5:08 a.m. could instead originate from Southampton, providing residents in Southampton, Hampton Bays and Westhampton with a year-round option to get to Penn Station.

Though the exact time frame remains unclear, the meeting participants are confident that additional commuter options will be available soon.

“I’m optimistic,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, who attended last month’s meeting. “Fred Thiele’s been doing an excellent job leading the conversation and bringing the parties together, and there’s a clear commitment from the LIRR.”

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sounds like the visitors are are going to have more choices but us commuters to the city,still have to drive to Speonk No Good.
By tinboat (17), hampton bays on Aug 2, 17 12:01 PM
Takes care of visitors but us commuters still have to drive to Speonk or west to get to the city for work Not good!
By tinboat (17), hampton bays on Aug 2, 17 12:04 PM
In related news, you can schedule a colonoscopy when you're 48 and not get it until you're 50.
By SlimeAlive (1181), Southampton on Aug 2, 17 1:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
Jay, do you really think labors will commute by train??? Drinkin bad water... Workers need to get to the city, don't you see??? Go to ronkonkama and check how many commute from the north and south shore.
Heck probably would relieve parking at the RR...

By knitter (1941), Southampton on Aug 2, 17 6:18 PM
More convenient train schedule to NYC needed for people wanting an alternative to overcrowded private busses.
By moj (3), Bridgehampton on Aug 3, 17 7:52 AM
jThis is a fantasy and will take 20 years, the long island RR moto is slow service for slow people
By yassar arafar (33), sag harbor on Aug 3, 17 12:24 PM
With the new trains comes noise.. I don't remember this being put forth to the members of the community.. I guess no one cares about the people who live close to the tracks quality of life.. I hope the Railroad will be putting up sound barrier walls to block the noise.
By Tomjulie (43), Hampton Bays on Aug 3, 17 5:28 PM
Agreed! The trains at the Speonk train station idle all night long and you can hear the noise for miles.
By Mouthampton (439), Southampton on Aug 4, 17 11:57 AM
Can we please stop subsidizing the corrupt and collapsing LIRR? We don't need to pay overtime to unionized workers -- use the right of way next to the train tracks for driverless cars service. Google or Uber or any of the other 10 companies trying to get their software approved by a local government would love to put their cars in service. And it would be a lot less money.
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Aug 3, 17 8:18 PM
More trains would help! But forget about buses between the train stations and downtowns. Who would use those? Instead, spend the money on adding tons of parking at the east end train stations. I go into the city from Southampton at least once a week. Because of the horrible LIRR schedule and the expensive & unreliable taxi services (to get to the train station), I usually drive into the city or I drive to Patchogue, which has good parking and frequent trains.
By rpd (5), Southampton on Aug 4, 17 11:52 AM