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May 21, 2019 4:40 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Officials Say Ridership Numbers Are Up On South Fork Commuter Connection

Passengers arrived on the eastbound train in East Hampton on Tuesday morning. KYRIL BROMLEY
May 23, 2019 8:24 AM

Two months after the Long Island Rail Road launched a combination shuttle and rail service for commuters called the South Fork Commuter Connection, ridership has steadily increased—and soared in some instances—from March to the end of April.

Only two riders took the train to Amagansett in the month of March; in April, that number had jumped to 23 riders, the biggest gain. Although that may seem like a small number of riders, other train stations are seeing a much higher number of passengers.

In March, 100 riders were reported to have taken the train to Southampton—for the month of April, that number had risen to 333 passengers.

Some areas had a smaller increase. For example, in East Hampton Town, 102 riders were reported to have taken the train during the month of March, and 163 took it during the month of April.

The Bridgehampton train station saw a 135-percent increase, with 60 passengers riding the rails in March and 141 in April.

Overall, the commuter train saw an increase over the same period from 264 riders to 644, a 143 percent increase, month-to-month.

“I’m encouraged,” Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said on Tuesday. “People’s travel patterns don’t change overnight. It takes a while. It’s not going to work for everyone.”

East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said in an email on Tuesday that he has seen a steady increase in ridership since the service began in March, and he expects it to continue to increase.

“We have received high praise from many who are taking advantage of the new train schedule,” he said. “Most point out the benefits of less stress, shorter commute times and the ability to work or read on the train, instead of driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic.”

The South Fork Commuter Connection is a new service that was started in March that allows commuters to take the train to any of the South Fork train stations, depending on the schedule, for $3.25 each way. For an additional $1, commuters can ride one of the shuttle buses to get to points near their work.

The numbers being reported include only people who transferred from the train to the last-mile shuttle service that is being provided by the towns of Southampton and East Hampton, by way of the Hampton Jitney and the Hampton Hopper. Riders who walked or took alternative transportation to their final destination from the train stations were not included in the count—so the actual number of train passengers likely is even higher.

Mr. Schneiderman rode the second morning train on Tuesday, which departed Hampton Bays at 8:26 a.m. and arrived in Southampton Village at 8:36 a.m., and said there were only about 20 riders on the single-car train being pulled by a locomotive.

But the earlier train, which left the Speonk train station at 6:16 a.m., and made stops in Westhampton, Hampton Bays, Southampton, Bridgehampton, East Hampton and Amagansett, had “more than 80 people riding,” said Mr. Schneiderman, attributing the numbers to the conductor who took the tickets.

He continued to say that Tom Neely, the director of public transportation for the Town of Southampton, is working with numbers from the shuttle services. Mr. Neely’s numbers show more riders are taking the train to Southampton and getting on the shuttle than at any other location

“The more important numbers are from the worker,” Mr. Schneiderman said of the conductor.

Of the 80 people Mr. Schneiderman said was reported to him, a lot of people got on at the Hampton Bays train station.

The conductor also said a lot more people were actually riding the train to East Hampton, according to Mr. Schneiderman.

John C. Jilnicki, the acting town attorney in East Hampton, said in an email that he takes the train whenever his day will allow him to do so, and he has seen the train packed on both the top and bottom levels.

“While it may start in Speonk with only about 5 to 15 people, it fills further at eastern stations, probably doubling at Westhampton, and it is pretty well packed once it leaves Hampton Bays,” he said in an email. “This week, it’s pretty close to full on every train I have been on so far, unlike most of the regularly scheduled trains run outside the SFCC program.

“It is true that the last/first mile buses aren’t that full, because many people walk and get rides … but the trains have been quite full and bus ridership doesn’t reflect train ridership,” he added.

Beginning this week, the train schedule changed and the commuter rail dropped service on Fridays to allow more trains from Manhattan. The modification opens a gap in what the town has been trying to do, which is get more people to take the train to work.

“At least you have relief for four days of the week,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “The schedule is different on Friday … they have the ‘Cannonball.’” The Cannonball is an afternoon train from New York City that is typically filled with weekend visitors.

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who worked to get the South Fork Commuter Connection to become a reality for the East End, announced in April that legislation to install mechanisms that will allow trains to pass, is gaining traction in Albany.

Mr. Schneiderman said this week that he plans to meet with MTA officials soon to discuss locations where the mechanisms can be installed.

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I am a CPA and a wonder what generally accepted accounting principle (GAAP) calculates to a total referred to as "a lot". Is that larger than a peck and smaller than a bushel? It seems that there is an article every few weeks. What is the quote :Methinks thou doth protest too much". Reports of traffic and crashes on CR39 far exceed any regular and consistent ridership on this commuter train. When there is real relief for the traffic, may the Supervisor will have something real to report.
By G.A.Lombardi (575), Hampton Bays on May 22, 19 2:10 PM
Not sure it was ever meant to relieve traffic. Just the nerves of those who had to sit in it. Look for me waving as I pass you by.
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on May 22, 19 2:34 PM
I've taken in from HB to BH and it is actually amazing. I can't do it every day, as I need my car sometimes, but I'm planning to use it at least once a week in the summer to give myself a break from the traffic. If the times work for you I really suggest you give it a try.
By kkelly75 (31), Hampton Bays on May 22, 19 3:09 PM
2 members liked this comment
kkelly - that is my point - it will be a novelty here and there for people, certainly not worth the money and adverse effect on the environment.
By G.A.Lombardi (575), Hampton Bays on May 23, 19 7:20 AM
1 member liked this comment
kkelly - that is my point - it will be a novelty here and there for people, certainly not worth the money and adverse effect on the environment.
By G.A.Lombardi (575), Hampton Bays on May 23, 19 7:20 AM
1 member liked this comment
"Build it, and they will come!"

Now that this service is [hopefully] year-round, the ridership numbers will just keep increasing, especially if the connecting "feeder" bus routes can be expanded in frequency and geographic scope.

When the schedule becomes PREDICTABLE AND DEPENDABLE, it will gather a head of steam and take us . . .


By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 22, 19 3:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
Build a 4 lane highway no one is using the train
By chief1 (2800), southampton on May 22, 19 5:59 PM
PBR...I am assuming your comments were tongue in cheek..."predicable and dependable"...clearly you have never been stranded by the LIRR....Changing people's mindsets from driving to relying on mass transit and have a consistent, predicable and dependable mass transit service that is cost effective and energy efficient is really not realistic. This was yet another "though the spaghetti against the ceiling and see if it will stick" method of problem solving by our Town and State administration and ...more
By G.A.Lombardi (575), Hampton Bays on May 22, 19 7:09 PM
There is a serious flaw in not having a train scheduled after the last 5:15pm East Hampton westbound. If you miss it because of work or whatever, you are STRANDED with no way home. This is no way to run a schedule
By Non-Political (125), Hampton Bays on May 22, 19 10:14 PM
4 is not enough, make it 8 so no one waits.
By tenn tom (259), remsenburg on May 23, 19 7:45 AM
Sorry with all the LIRR issues the numbers will not play out well for this service. This story is just PR with no facts on how much this is costing and no true facts on rider capacity. These trains must be running at less than 10 percent capacity .
By Hamptonsway (107), Southampton on May 23, 19 8:39 PM
The commuter train only functions for a handful of commuters. The workforce among the East end has increased significantly requiring more than one train in and out. There has not been any offset to the amount of traffic on the roads because there aren't enough trains in place. The fact that they have now changed the schedule on Friday's to accommodate only the "City people " is a slap in the face. You want people to work on the East End then stop putting a bandaid on the problem.
By jbjreading (3), Manorville on May 24, 19 1:17 PM
1 member liked this comment
And now the Town plans on investing more money in "overflow" parking in Hampton Bays...throwing good money after bad....this Town Board is the most fiscally irresponsible Board EVER,. ..then they say they don't have money for fixing property etc. They just paid $9.5 MILLION for 25 Ponqugoe - taking prime real estate off the tax roll and now having to maintain it....Brilliant fiscal planning.
May 27, 19 9:57 AM appended by G.A.Lombardi
should be 6.5 not 9.5..what's a million anyway with this Town Administration.
By G.A.Lombardi (575), Hampton Bays on May 25, 19 9:57 AM
1 member liked this comment