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Sep 7, 2008 5:47 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Rail-bus proposal taking shape

Sep 7, 2008 5:47 PM

A coordinated transportation network for the East End, designed to reduce traffic and spare commuters long drives to work, has moved a little closer to reality, Southampton Town Transportation Director Thomas Neely told East Hampton village officials last week.

A rail-bus network, the main option under consideration, would include stops at the railroad station in East Hampton with busses to transport riders along north and south routes. Mr. Neely said a new train station in Wainscott, and reopening stops at Southampton College and Calverton Center, are under consideration.

“The basic concept of this model is to use the existing rails on the South and North forks, using busses to serve local communities,” Mr. Neely reported to the East Hampton Village Board at its work session on Thursday, September 4.

Using a $360,000 state grant, the five towns of the East End (East Hampton, Southampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island and Southold) hired the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center to conduct studies of the possible rail-bus network and another alternative yet to be identified. The alternative could be something like a bus-only system. The first phase of the study, an assessment of current transportation systems, is complete, Mr. Neely told the board.

“We had to get an assessment of where we are in order to look at the possibility of a rail-bus network or another alternative,” he said. “The first phase of the study assessed three broad areas—the Long Island Rail Road, Suffolk County transit and human services transportation.”

The 47-page report assessed residential demographics, including a population overview that includes seasonal patterns; the current transportation network, including travel patterns, journey-to-work flow and roadway conditions.

To prepare its report, Volpe reviewed past local and regional studies, conducted site visits, and interviewed staff from the five towns, transportation and planning agencies, and stakeholder groups. Stakeholders are local businesses and government, schools, the general public and anyone who has an interest in transportation in the area. The report can be found at www.town.southampton.ny.us. Click on “East End Transportation News.”

Southampton is the lead municipality of the five-town project and is coordinating all information about the transportation study.

Although it is not included in the assessment study, the South Fork Commuter-Connection Service, which operated for several months while a second eastbound lane was being added to County Road 39 beginning last fall and ending last spring, provided “a good learning system,” Mr. Neely said. Ridership of the local service, which transported people among towns on the South Fork, was about 8,000 a month or 400 people a day in November 2007, shortly after the service began. By May, when Country Road 39 repairs were complete, ridership was down to about 3,200, according to Mr. Neely.

A passenger survey showed a lot of enthusiasm for the project, he said. Primary riders came from the school districts, including 12 to 15 who worked in the East Hampton district and 10 who worked in Springs; Southampton Hospital and Southampton Town Hall. The system will not be revived, however, because demand has fallen off since the extra lane was added on County Road 39, easing severe congestion.

The next phase of Volpe’s study will be to do an initial evaluation of a rail-bus network and the alternative system, which is yet to be defined. The results of that assessment are expected to be complete in two months, Mr. Neely said.

“At that time, a public forum involving elected officials and stakeholders will be held to discuss the assessment,” he said. One possibility for such a forum would be to hold it at Southampton College. A similar forum on local transportation issues was held there three years ago.

The assessment will also be reviewed, he explained, by the Technical Advisory Group, which is made up of members of the East End Transportation Council and the executive board of the Five Towns Rural Transit organization. The Advisory Group has already studied the current transportation conditions phase of the study.

The funding the five towns got for the Volpe studies came from a New York State Municipal Services Grant, which paid 90 percent of the study costs. The five towns are sharing the balance.

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I hope the Town portion of the expense of running the "bus to train program" is only for transporting Town employees.

All non-Town employers with employees using this "bus to train program should subsidize their fair share.

Both the Town as an employer and other employers in the town need to establish incentives for the employee to use the program. Employer and employee should bare the cost.
By pumpkin (1), Southampton on Sep 8, 08 9:51 PM
It is a very good idea to keep our rails & bus system running on a year round basis. The system last fall was great and the majority of the year round community then utilized it's service. Plus, the east end community needs a break with the gouging of gas at the east end gas stations it just makes commuting that much of a headache. Have the wealthy visitors pay that price. Plus it is better for our environment keeping everything still in tact of what charm to this area that is still left. The traffic ...more
By mfoley (5), West Hampton Beach on Sep 9, 08 1:47 PM
That is an outstanding proposal!
By thehamptonsaregreat@yahoo.com (5), watermill on Sep 18, 08 7:53 PM
Open a Watermill Station on Deerfield
Rd by the park please.
By thehamptonsaregreat@yahoo.com (5), watermill on Sep 18, 08 7:54 PM
Just another thought since I am so intrigued about the subject--Develop Hampton Buses instead of Suffolk Buses or taxis. Hampton Buses should be new, smaller than a suffolk bus, nicer looking---maybe similar to a trolley.

Hampton Buses would compliment the quaint-ness and aesthetics we desire.

Anyone agree?
By thehamptonsaregreat@yahoo.com (5), watermill on Sep 18, 08 8:03 PM