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Oct 2, 2018 9:40 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

South Fork Commuter Connection Set To Launch In March

New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele presenting the South Fork Commuter Connection to the Sag Harbor School Board last month. JON WINKLER
Oct 2, 2018 2:28 PM

In March, South Fork commuters looking to skip the eastern traffic of County Road 39 can simply hop a train.

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. has spent the last month visiting school and village board meetings in Bridgehampton, Sag Harbor and Southampton to pitch the South Fork Commuter Connection project. The collaboration between East End representatives and the Long Island Rail Road will add six eastbound routes between Speonk and Montauk during the weekdays. Mr. Thiele said on Friday that the plan is for the trains to go into service starting March 4 next year.

According to the latest drafts of the schedule, the first eastbound run of the connection is set to start in Speonk at 6:16 a.m. with stops in Westhampton, Hampton Bays, Southampton, Bridgehampton, East Hampton and Amagansett as the final stop by 7:08 a.m. The second route will start in Hampton Bays at 8:26 a.m. with stops in Southampton, Bridgehampton, East Hampton, Amagansett and Montauk as the final stop by 9:25 a.m. The only other eastbound route leaves Speonk at 3:02 p.m. and stops at all the previously mentioned stops before arriving in Montauk at 4:14 p.m.

The connection also offers westbound routes with the first being a morning route starting in Amagansett at 7:27 a.m. and stopping only in East Hampton, Bridgehampton, Southampton and Hampton Bays as the final stop by 8:01 a.m. The other two routes are in the afternoon with the first leaving Montauk at 12:51 p.m. and stopping in Amagansett, East Hampton, Bridgehampton, Southampton, Hampton Bays, Westhampton and Speonk as the final stop by 2:08 p.m. The connection’s final route starts in Montauk at 4:50 p.m. but goes only as far as Hampton Bays by 5:43 p.m.

Mr. Thiele said while the fare for the train hasn’t been set in stone, it won’t exceed $6.50. The connection’s final eastbound and westbound routes, however, will not run during Fridays in the summer season due to the already-existing trains packed with summer visitors.

“This has been an initiative that five East End towns have been advocating for for 15 years, with study after study that showed this service was needed,” Mr. Thiele said. “Traffic on County Road 39 got worse and worse over the years, and the likelihood of new roads is pretty limited. Meanwhile the railroad is underutilized. We have to think about moving people more than moving cars.”

Elisa Picca, executive vice president of the Long Island Rail Road, said on Monday that one of the more difficult aspects of the project was addressing such a specific location like the East End.

“It’s important to think about service within the East End,” Ms. Picca said. “It’s not the typical commuting area. While the rest of Long Island goes west in the morning, people on the East End are usually going east.”

Mr. Thiele noted another crucial element to the project is bus travel from train stations to popular areas from each station the trains stop in. Deemed “last-mile transportation,” Mr. Thiele said that the buses would transport people to different locations depending on the area. For example, buses could transport commuters from the Southampton station to downtown and the Southampton High School. Buses waiting at the Bridgehampton station could transport commuters to the Bridgehampton Commons shopping center and even Sag Harbor. Mr. Thiele said that the towns of East and Southampton are working on a joint request for proposals to oversee the bus transport.

“The train station is not always located in convenient places for workers,” Mr. Thiele said. “The purpose of the buses is to bring people from the train station to the last miles they have.”

Budget-wise, Mr. Thiele said that the Long Island Rail Road will cover the operating costs of the additional trains and crew members. Mr. Thiele said that the last-mile transportation and his informational campaign on the project cost an estimated $500,000. He added that the only capital improvement needed for the project is an estimated $125,000 to add about 30 parking spaces to the parking lot of the Hampton Bays train station.

Thomas Neely, director of public transportation and traffic safety for the Town of Southampton, said the spots will go along Ponquogue Avenue near the station next to Good Ground Road. Mr. Neely said that most commuters will be getting on the train at the Hampton Bays stop along with Westhampton and Speonk, though those two stations have larger parking lots not needing more space.

Mr. Thiele said that he hopes there could be trains available to East End commuters every half hour within 10 years along with more service on the weekend.

“This is the first step in what we hope will be a bigger change,” Mr. Thiele said. “Right now, the focus is on the commuters.”

“This was the best schedule that we know we can deliver, but we have to look at infrastructure improvements in the future,” Ms. Picca said. “We’re very much looking forward to launching the service and getting community feedback.”

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Kudos to Mr. Thiele and Five Town Rural Transit for the vision, and 10-year effort, it took to make this happen.

An idea whose time has come!

5trt [dot] org

By PBR (4956), Southampton on Oct 2, 18 3:35 PM
Is it a car carrying train? Most of the “Trade Parade” needs their vehicles with tools...
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Oct 2, 18 5:27 PM
No, the commuter train is just one tool in the bag to deal with excessive traffic.

Many earlier articles and comments [mostly about CR 39] have emphasized the need to accommodate workers' trucks and tools out here. New parking areas will be needed.

The earlier experiments with this shuttle train were very successful. If this new experiment works, we won't have to watch Rome burn as we . . .

Fiddle Fiddle Fiddle !!!

By Nero (301), Sag Harbor on Oct 2, 18 6:34 PM
Once again the five east end towns dumping and polluting on towns west of the canal. It is all about them.

This will ad excess pollution from the train, from cars stuck in traffic, but most of all, increases the risks with more training crossings. Mr. Thiele may not be aware the Hampton Bays Station is within a hamlet.

It will not be used enough to be positive for LIRR and will need funding from we the people.
By ZGerry (50), Hamptons on Oct 3, 18 9:22 AM
Will the Town Hall people be taking the train, Jay and Tom going to give up the car and commute? Southampton schools???
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Oct 3, 18 11:08 AM
It is one month into the train running and it has not alleviated traffic at all. Traffic is just as bad this year as in years past. Unfortunately, there is one train in and one train out. They need more trains otherwise some type of moratorium should be put in place so that landscapers are not traveling at the same time as commuters. The traffic is terrible and it has only just begun.
By jbjreading (3), Manorville on Apr 1, 19 2:07 PM