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Mar 4, 2019 1:03 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

South Fork Commuter Connection Launches Monday Despite Morning Storm Delays

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman rides the South Fork Commuter Connection on Monday morning. JOE SHAW
Mar 5, 2019 4:17 PM

The Long Island Rail Road on Monday morning kicked off its inaugural run of the South Fork Commuter Connection—a train service with coordinated shuttles designed to help get members of the workforce to their jobs on the East End—though ridership was low.

Due to the winter storm, which resulted in 1 to 3 inches of snow on the East End, Town Hall was on a two-hour delayed opening, as were area school districts. The combination, along with the lack of eastbound “trade parade” congestion at this point in March, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said on Monday morning, may have had an impact on the number of people who took the commuter train earlier that day.

But overall, he said, the morning runs were successful. He added that many of the logistics, such as having shuttles in place to bus people to work, and the train schedules, all fell into place.

The first train, which left Speonk at 6:16 a.m. and made stops in Westhampton Beach and Hampton Bays, had picked up only one passenger who got off the single-car, double-decker train at the Southampton Village train station, before it continued on to stops in Bridgehampton, East Hampton and Amagansett.

That passenger, Southampton Town Chief Environmental Analyst Marty Shea, boarded the train in Hampton Bays, and it took 10 minutes to get to Southampton. He was then greeted by a fleet of buses from the Hampton Hopper, and Mr. Shea boarded one that took him to Town Hall. The shuttle service added an additional three to five minutes to the train commute.

“It’s excellent,” he said.

Mr. Shea said he plans to take the train regularly to Southampton, where the Hampton Hoppers will be available to take him to his job at Town Hall.

Lin Restivo, a resident of Hampton Bays who commutes to a retail job in Bridgehampton, took the 8:26 a.m. from Hampton Bays to get to work on Monday morning. “I look forward to this,” she said. “This is good for now, but come May, I hope we have a later train.”

Mr. Schneiderman and Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming rode the same train as Ms. Restivo, and admired the new vantage point—an alternative to sitting in traffic and staring at the other vehicles.

“You have a different perspective on things,” Mr. Schneiderman said to Ms. Fleming. “It’s amazing how short it is by rail from Hampton Bays to Southampton.”

Despite the low turnout of riders, Mr. Schneiderman remained optimistic that the number of commuters who will take the rail, would increase.

“Ridership will be directly proportional to traffic,” he said. “There was no traffic today. A lot of contractors didn’t drive east because of the weather.”

The Tuesday morning trains had about a dozen riders each, according to Southampton Town Director of Communications Connie Conway.

Mr. Schneiderman said along with those hoping to get around the morning and evening traffic jams that occur from Hampton Bays to points east, on their way to work, some will want to take the train just so they can admire the East End beaches, and the additional trains will allow them to do so.

Southampton Village resident Jay Fitzpatrick, who lives near the train station, said he is against adding more trains, however.

“With a storm warning for today and all the hype, I would have thought drivers would have taken advantage of this service,” Mr. Fitzpatrick said in an email after watching the 6:45 a.m. train arrive in Southampton Village. “Despite four waiting shuttle buses and three Village Police SUVs—one with flashing lights on—only one passenger got off the train and walked to one of the four waiting shuttles, which then whisked him off to his destination.”

Mr. Schneiderman also said he was hopeful that the train schedules would not deter people from taking the Commuter Connection, and that employers would work with their staff to develop alternative work schedules so they can take advantage of the rail.

The alternative is sitting in traffic and scrambling to find alternative routes, he said.

Ms. Restivo said before the option of taking a train was available, she would drive to Bridgehampton from Hampton Bays, seeking out back road alternatives to avoid traffic.

“The idea was to provide some choices, some flexibility,” Mr. Schneiderman said.

On Tuesday afternoon, trains ran on a 15 minute delay due to a downed utility.

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Is there a bigger idiot than Jay Schneiderman?
By C Law (354), Water Mill on Mar 4, 19 1:15 PM
1 member liked this comment
No, I don't think so.
By Babyboo (293), Hampton Bays on Mar 4, 19 7:18 PM
2 members liked this comment
Hope it works, but doubt it will have any real impact on traffic.

It will likely be an expensive experiment.

Time will tell and along with a proper public analysis of cost/benefit.

Real solutions like smart lights, wider roads, etc should not be ignored.

By Amagansett Voter (62), Amagansett on Mar 4, 19 1:50 PM
1 member liked this comment
Please add links to earlier articles, and to the LIRR schedule for this shuttle.

Good points, Amagansett Voter.

Just one tool of many we will need to ease traffic congestion on the South Fork. Contractors and trades-folks could ride the train, if there was good secure parking for their trucks etc. out here, perhaps at the East Hampton airport, Southampton College campus when it is re-configured for the new hospital, etc. etc..

By PBR (4956), Southampton on Mar 4, 19 3:49 PM
1 member liked this comment
Americans are IN LOVE with pollution-spewing, wealth-destroying private motor vehicles!
By Aeshtron (431), Southampton on Mar 4, 19 4:16 PM
Explain how autos are wealth-destroying.
By Babyboo (293), Hampton Bays on Mar 4, 19 7:20 PM
Automobiles cost money to own, operate and maintain and are a depreciating asset. Walking, bicycling and public transportation cost less to the user. But, that is part of the appeal of the private automobile, showing other people much money you can spend. I have two giant, late-model shitboxes that spew toxic exhaust, I estimate they cost me nearly $100,000 to own and operate over a five-year period. I'm a giant hypocrite just like many other people ; )
Mar 5, 19 9:26 AM appended by Aeshtron
Should read "...part of the appeal of the private automobile -- showing other people how much money you can spend". Autocorrect and lack of proof-reading got me twice here today.
By Aeshtron (431), Southampton on Mar 5, 19 9:26 AM
It will take a while to catch on--but it will.

In another few weeks we will be welcoming back those special mornings when HB is gridlock, and it takes 1 hr 45 min to get to SH village. The icing on the cake is when you're sitting by the college watching the shuttle whiz past.

Hope some of those smiling passengers hurtling by take the time for a friendly wave...
By aging hipster (201), Southampton on Mar 4, 19 4:30 PM
3 members liked this comment
Snowstorm? Where? It was raining at 4 am. It's not gonna work most commuters carry tools and are sales people. 500k down the toilet
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Mar 4, 19 5:38 PM
1 member liked this comment
The Great Peconic Causeway...The most beautiful drive in America..Coming soon.
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Mar 5, 19 1:30 AM
1 member liked this comment
Everyone needs to take a very careful look at this schedule making great judgement on the impact on traffic. The first eastbound train leaves Speonk (6:16), WH (6:22) and Hampton Bays (6:35) getting into Southampton at 6:45 - very early for office work. The next train leaves HB at 8:26 with nothing further east. This means all intended traffic needs to get into HB at the absolute height of the trade parade. Traffic at this time has been backing up to Quogue on 27, EQ on Montauk Hwy and Flanders ...more
By roverton (64), Westhampton on Mar 5, 19 9:15 AM
That should read nothing west of Hampton Bays for the 8:26 train. Sorry for the error.
By roverton (64), Westhampton on Mar 5, 19 9:17 AM
Cars and SUV’s usage: it is very inefficient and wasteful for a 160 pound person to be transported by a 5000 pound machine that requires over 200 square feet of space to move and even park.
Train will need an expanded schedule to be most efficient.
By Non-Political (125), Hampton Bays on Mar 5, 19 3:20 PM
1 member liked this comment
Even when ridership is high, this will do very little to put a dent in the trade parade. It will however, give those who work in offices or retail, the option to bypass traffic. Many of the contractors that commute in from "up island" are already on the clock when they leave their shops. They are largely, if not solely, responsible for the hour plus commute for many office workers on the east end during the spring, summer and fall. However, the schedule chosen for this "commuter connection" simply ...more
By WetSand09 (7), Hampton Bays on Mar 5, 19 3:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
Everyone needs to relax, and realize that this "Shuttle" concept is going to take time, and plenty of adjustments to work.

As the roads get more and more crowded, and as the shuttle/bus schedules expand and improve, the market will adjust and migrate to train transportation because it will be more efficient IMO.

Imagine there being NO trains and subways into NYC !!!

Get it?

By PBR (4956), Southampton on Mar 5, 19 3:38 PM
By themarlinspike (542), southampton on Mar 6, 19 9:11 AM
Nobody is riding the shuttle. Do you know how much fuel a giant diesel burns? Take the tracks out put a four lane highway and run buses. It's the only way to fix traffic and pollution
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Mar 8, 19 1:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
Take the tracks out and run buses? What about that 14 car train on Thursday that is packed with people standing. How many buses and drivers would it take to replace that? Each train car holds over 150 people times 14 cars versus a 40 passenger bus. There is no method of transportation on the planet more efficient than a train. Period! This east end shuttle may not be perfect, but if done right, nothing can beat the efficiency of a train. One (1), and I do mean one, could carry every worker, and ...more
By deelove (152), Bridgehampton on Mar 11, 19 9:02 AM
People don't use the east end trains because the schedule is terrible. You can be stuck in Montauk for 7 hours at certain times if you miss a train. But there is no better way of commuting on the branches with half hour or hourly schedules. If more trains run, people would use it. As it stands now, a missed train can ruin your day. People can't take that chance.
By deelove (152), Bridgehampton on Mar 11, 19 9:11 AM