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Jan 30, 2017 7:23 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Progress Made On Plan To Link Buses, Shuttles

The East Hampton train station. PRESS FILE
Jan 31, 2017 2:44 PM

A train and shuttle system to get South Fork commuters to and from work is officially moving forward with “deliberate speed,” according to a local legislator, who is hopeful a framework agreement might be in place by Memorial Day, allowing the service to start in 2018.

East End representatives met with Long Island Rail Road officials on January 26 to discuss the service, called the South Fork Commuter Connection, which was proposed by officials from the East End towns in November. The service would provide two eastbound commuter trains in the morning from Speonk to Montauk, and an afternoon westbound commuter train from Montauk to Speonk, explained State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who has pushed to expand public transportation for two decades.

In addition, he said, the East End towns would provide shuttle bus systems to transport commuters from train stations on the South Fork to employment centers—such as government buildings, downtown districts and hospitals—leaving the train stations in the morning and transporting commuters back to them in the afternoon.

According to Mr. Thiele, the bus system could cost each East End town between $500,000 and $1 million annually, although he said he expects the state to fund at least half of that amount.

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said that, although he was not involved in discussions with LIRR, he believes there are several ways the town could fund a shuttle system—such as possible assistance from employers, a small fee for passengers or through a partnership with Suffolk County Transit. The supervisor also noted that the East End Tourism Alliance has been working to impose a resort fee for hotels, to go toward public transportation, which could be a possible source of funding for the shuttle system.

According to Mr. Thiele, East Hampton Town recently hired an engineering consultant to help formulate a budget for a shuttle system.

The operational costs to add the three commuter trains would be included in the MTA budget, Mr. Thiele said, although he declined to give figures for the cost of that service, noting that it will be discussed at a meeting between East End officials and the LIRR in early March. He noted that the scope of the bus system would also be discussed at the meeting, at which, he said in a release, officials will, “hopefully, agree to the new services, establish train schedules and needed additional actions to finalize the new service.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Thiele said he believed an agreement could be finalized before Memorial Day. “We’re moving, I think, with deliberate speed to establish improved rail service on the East End,” he said. “There are limited opportunities to increase capacity on [County Road] 39. I think this could have some immediate impact to remediate traffic congestion.”

Once schedules are agreed to by the LIRR and South Fork local governments, the towns would need to develop bus service to get commuters to and from stations and employment centers, which, Mr. Thiele noted, will take time to establish and fund. In a release, he estimated the start date for the new service as early 2018.

In the long term, East End officials are also pushing for a capital plan to provide train service every half hour eastbound during the morning commute and westbound during the afternoon commute. Due to a current lack of infrastructure, however, a second track from Sayville to Montauk, or perhaps additional sidings, would be required to provide the frequent service. State legislators are expected to seek funding for a study to develop the long-term capital plan during the 2017 state budget process.

As part of discussion with LIRR, North Fork travelers may also see an increase in the number of trains going in and out of Greenport, which could begin by the end of 2017, according to the release from the state. LIRR officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

A South Fork shuttle service and additional trains operated on a pilot basis almost a decade ago, while an eastbound lane was being added to County Road 39 to help alleviate traffic tied up by construction. While construction was ongoing, train 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.

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Can the landscapers bring their shovels with them?
By Mouthampton (439), Southampton on Jan 30, 17 8:57 PM
It's about time!
By Rich Morey (378), East Hampton on Jan 30, 17 9:06 PM
Employment centers? Please explain, Fred. Does this mean that we are going to pay millions to bus day laborers to employment centers where they can find untaxed work?

The big issue here is, contractors coming from up west aren't going to use this service. They need tools. And, since it's only 2 trains in the morning and one in the afternoon, I don't see many locals using it.

But let's just say Bob, the carpenter from Speonk is working in Sagaponack on a project. He takes the Fred ...more
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Jan 31, 17 7:47 AM
I mean if office workers, teachers, etc. use this, it might alleviate some of the congestion. But as many have stated, I can't see the average contractor or day laborer using this. Just doesn't make sense. This is the equivalent of plugging a hole in a dam only to spring another leak somewhere else. The damage was already done when they allowed people to build houses on every last square piece of land east of the canal. Deal with it.
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on Jan 31, 17 9:08 AM
Didn't Freddy Thiele get funding for shuttle trains a couple years back...what ever happened to those? Just more empty talk from a professional political hack.
By Preliator Lives (437), Obamavillie on Jan 31, 17 11:45 AM
Another useless government scenario on alleviating congestion. How much did they spend on this enlighten idea. Time to think outside the box...replace or augment the rail line with a new roadway!
By Amagansett Voter (62), Amagansett on Jan 31, 17 11:55 AM
1 member liked this comment
If the IQ levels of these blogs get any lower, we'll have to water them twice a day.
By shadow captain (34), sag harbor on Feb 2, 17 11:25 AM
Did anyone ask those living IN the stations how they feel about the increase in train traffic?
By roseval (1), westhampton on Feb 2, 17 11:30 AM
I am very happy to hear about improved train schedules, because the train has a much smoother ride than the jitney. I have been a rider on both forms of mass transit. It will make getting to JFK airport easier, as well as getting to specialty doctors and hospitals in Manhattan. It also will be great for being able to get into the city to see friends and relatives without using a car.I have been on the jitney in the early mornings and you would not believe how many people commute from here to the ...more
By QuietLife (61), Southampton on Feb 2, 17 12:07 PM