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Sep 14, 2010 5:29 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Montauk train service cut takes effect; shuttle service could be on horizon

Sep 14, 2010 5:29 PM

Nearly every afternoon since 1993, Harry Baker has ridden the 4:30 p.m. train from Hunterspoint Avenue in Queens—near where he works in Long Island City—home to Westhampton.

But now, due to cost-saving Metropolitan Transportation Authority service cuts that went into effect this past Monday, September 13, the train has been reduced to running only on Fridays, and only in the summer.

Mr. Baker, a news crew supervisor for NBC, says he will have to either request to change his work hours in order to catch the 3:40 train to Speonk, or catch one of several later trains, which would get him home late in the evening.

The cut, which the transportation authority estimates will affect some 480 daily riders, exacerbates a long-standing midday gap in service to the East End along the Montauk line of the Long Island Rail Road, Mr. Baker said.

“We’re already paralyzed, we’re already lowballed, and now they’re going to make it even worse,” he said.

The 4:30 p.m. train from Queens will continue to run on Fridays, but only until Friday, October 8. The train will be revived each summer—a move that Mr. Baker said is meant to cater to summer tourists rather than locals.

“This is actually like discrimination against the working guy,” he said.

The cut to the Montauk line is part of a package of cuts throughout the MTA system that went into effect on Monday, after the agency announced them earlier this year—the widest service cuts the MTA has made in decades, according to the agency.

Officials said the cuts are designed to help close a more than $800 million deficit that they said emerged in a few short months between the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010, and which were due to state budget cuts and declining revenues. Since then, the budget gap has increased to $900 million, according to a financial plan released in July.

The MTA estimates that cutting the train from the Montauk line will save $396,000 annually. In all, the recent cuts to the Long Island Rail Road will save an estimated $11 million annually, according to the agency. Throughout the MTA system, service cuts will save $61 million in 2010 and more than $100 million per year thereafter, according to the financial plan.

The document also notes that the MTA eliminated 977 administrative positions in 2010, which will save an estimated $74 million in 2010 and more than $100 million per year thereafter.

The original package of cuts included the elimination of almost all train service to the North Fork, but the MTA backtracked after commuters and local officials cried out during a public hearing in Riverhead in March.

In the wake of the hearing, the Long Island Rail Road actually agreed to increase service to Riverhead by adding trains that are timed to bring jurors into town before the start of court at 9 a.m. on weekdays and take them westward again in the afternoons. Those trains began running on Monday, September 13.

New Solutions?

The service cuts—in combination with a new payroll tax levied by the MTA in 2009—prompted East End politicians to condemn the agency earlier this year and renewed a long-standing call for a separate transportation authority to serve the North and South forks. East End residents have long complained that the service they receive from the MTA does not justify the taxes they pay to the agency.

In February, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who represents the South Fork, and Assemblyman Marc Alessi, who represents the North Fork, co-sponsored a bill that would authorize a non-binding public referendum on the idea of creating a Peconic Bay Regional Transportation Authority to replace the MTA on the East End. State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle introduced an identical bill in his chamber.

But as of this week, the bills remain sidelined in committee, and a referendum will likely not appear on the ballot this November, according to Mr. Thiele.

The legislator, however, noted that the MTA has agreed to set aside $81 million in its 2010-2014 capital plan to study and possibly purchase a set of small “scoot-type” diesel trains for the Long Island Rail Road, which he said could be used to increase service on the East End in the future.

“They’re lighter, they’re cheaper, they’re better suited to the kind of short repetitive trips that we’re talking about,” he said.

The capital plan, which was approved in June, would have New York State pay for a study of the feasibility of using the smaller trains on Long Island, as well as the purchase of some prototype equipment, according to MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan.

Mr. Donovan said the scoot trains might be composed of two self-propelled cars, with no separate engine. They would likely be cheaper to run than full-sized diesel trains, and could allow for more frequent service, he said.

“Ideally, scoots would be used in portions of the Long Island Rail Road where service is currently less frequent—the Montauk branch, service to Greenport east of Ronkonkoma, the Oyster Bay branch is another one that has come up in initial discussions, but certainly nothing at this point is set in stone,” Mr. Donovan said.

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Well..take part of our paychecks & then take our service away too...what a joke!! This is why I take the Jitney, screw the MTA, they'll not get any MORE of my $$ willingly. Locals be damned, we don't need to go anywhere that's not within walking distance...c'mon man, this is "progress"? For who?? The fat cats @ the MTA...always has been, always will be. I feel sorry for those who really need the service, this is a total slap in the face to eastern Long Island. Boo MTA - boycott whatever's left in ...more
By trublnocknatmydr (35), East Hampton on Sep 14, 10 5:29 PM
2 members liked this comment
Don't forget how is trickles into our Property Taxes! As if they aren't high enough.
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Sep 15, 10 3:17 PM
I opted out of the MTA tax. Let them come and get me.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Sep 14, 10 8:04 PM
1 member liked this comment
"The MTA estimates that cutting the (4:30PM)train from the Montauk line will save $396,000 annually"
How about firing one useless senior executive? Same diff

But $81 Mill of capital budget to "study" local service.

BTW no local service will be complete without restoring the Eastport/Manorville cennection in order to connect the 2 forks. This can have the added benefit of getting a lot of buses off the road.
By smacw (240), New York on Sep 14, 10 8:28 PM
2 members liked this comment
Hey smacw, you better find out some way to blame this on the Democrats as usual, or you'll be tossed out of the Lizard Club (the people who fly the funny yellow flag with the lizard or whatever on it). Have to maintain your normal lowball posture.
By fidelis (199), westhampton beach on Sep 16, 10 11:42 AM
Gross fiscal malfeasance.

Gross ineptitude.

It's OK for us to pay ourselves handsomely, because who needs infrastructure anyway?

Good thing the car gets 23 MPG...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Sep 14, 10 11:07 PM
Give 'em hell, Harry!!! And then some!
By EQme (112), East Quogue on Sep 14, 10 11:32 PM
1 member liked this comment
It is WORSE than most people think. The salaries and OT are one obvious abuse, but there are more.

Fares have been raised higher for eastern L.I. for years - not just actual $$$ but higher percentages also.

Since 1974 Zone 1 (NY City) fares have increased 377%, while Zone 14 (eastern Long Island) fares have increased 560% !

Please see this site for details:
By Candide08 (8), Sag Harbor on Sep 15, 10 9:45 AM
Not to pile on, but according to a NY Times article published 10/2009 titled "New Oversight Has Not Cut Approvals of L.I.R.R. Disability Claims"

"Despite the railroad’s efforts, the Government Accountability Office reported that as of last April, Long Island Rail Road workers applied for disability at a rate 12 times that of other railroads; that only three doctors ...more
By winkelby (38), westhampton on Sep 15, 10 10:42 AM
1 member liked this comment

By ICE (1214), Southampton on Sep 15, 10 3:16 PM
1 member liked this comment
Great editorial today in the Southampton Press on this issue.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 16, 10 11:55 AM
Maybe i don't know enough about this, but here goes anyway. Since there does not seem to be much of a service for the East end of LI and understanding of the low demand and costs of this service, except maybe for summertime, why not abandon the service altogether. Give it back to the MTA tell them we don't want the service.

Use the money that is "saved" instead for more bus service that is locally focused. You could have buses that shuttle to the end of LIRR for the commuters that require ...more
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Sep 20, 10 12:48 PM