More transportation options are being discussed for the South Fork as officials finalize details of a proposed “commuter connection” service.
The Long Island Rail Road has proposed increasing service to six local trains a day, serving the eastern segment of the Montauk branch throughout the year—although the schedule would most likely need to be modified during the summer, according to New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr.
The proposed schedule would include three one-way eastbound commuter trains in the morning from Speonk to Montauk and three westbound commuter trains from Montauk to Speonk in the afternoon, with the hope of reducing traffic congestion on Montauk Highway by providing motorists with an alternative. The railroad has also proposed adding a direct, morning Penn Station-bound train from the East End.
Additionally, East End towns would provide shuttle bus routes to transport commuters from train stations on the South Fork to employment centers—such as government buildings, downtown districts and Southampton Hospital—leaving the train stations in the morning and transporting commuters back in the afternoon.
Mr. Thiele said this week that he expects another meeting with LIRR representatives in May to further refine the planned service and finalize a deal by Memorial Day.
“This all on a positive track,” the assemblyman said, noting the pun. “I think that we will have something pretty specific after the next meeting.”
LIRR representatives met with officials from New York State, Southampton Town, East Hampton Town and the North Fork on April 7 to iron out some details of the additional service, which is now estimated to be unveiled sometime in the fall of 2018, according to Southampton Town Director of Public Transportation and Traffic Safety Thomas Neely.
“I think it was generally a good meeting,” Mr. Neely said. “We certainly have plenty of transportation issues and plenty of transportation opportunities.”
He noted that for the local bus system—which has been estimated to cost each East End town between $500,000 and $1 million annually—Southampton Town officials are currently working to determine schedules and funding sources as well as to address parking concerns, specifically relating to the popular Hampton Bays station.
In that regard, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said at the most recent Town Board meeting that town officials are considering establishing a “tourist shuttle service” in Hampton Bays, which would hypothetically be run by a private operator. Although it is unclear whether the bus service would be contracted out by the town, Mr. Neely said funding for the shuttle would most likely be on the burden of the private operator, who would use advertising and possibly a small fare to make a profit. Mr. Schneiderman estimated the cost to take the shuttle service, which would run throughout the hamlet, at around $2.50 per ride, or $5 for the day.
North Fork travelers will also see an increase in the number of trains going in and out of Greenport, which could begin by the end of 2017.