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Oct 13, 2009 6:51 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East End transportation study will cost millions less than originally expected

Oct 13, 2009 6:51 PM

The cost of an improved public transportation system, one linking the North and South Forks, will most likely cost tens of millions of dollars less than originally expected, according to the results of a study presented during a forum held last week at Suffolk County Community College’s Riverhead campus.

The study was conducted by the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, a federally funded intermodal transportation research firm in Massachusetts. It was commissioned on behalf of the five East End towns and was conducted to determine the feasibility of building a coordinated rail-bus public transportation system serving the region.

The system, if it is ever approved, would integrate local shuttle trains with connecting bus service and replace most of the current transit services. The entire project would take about a decade to complete, according to experts.

According to a copy of the final report, the project would cost between $117 million and $148 million to build, and about $44 million a year to operate. Sean Pierce, who attended the forum on behalf of Volpe, noted that the estimated cost of the capital project came in lower than the original $247 million figure.

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who hosted the forum on September 23, attributed the reduction in price to the fact that residents living on the North Fork are in favor of a different, less costly, option.

The assemblyman also said that the project would most likely be funded through New York State and Suffolk County taxes, and be supplemented with federal grants. Mr. Thiele stressed that local towns and villages would not subsidize the project.

Southampton Town Director of Public Transportation and Traffic Safety Tom Neely explained that Volpe presented two different concepts during a forum in April. The first option called for a complete overhaul of public transportation on the East End, including new shuttle trains and connecting buses, and the other called for a smaller-scale and more gradual approach, with increased bus service and no immediate major rail improvements. Residents on the North Fork seemed to prefer the latter option, while residents on the South Fork preferred the former.

“It is much more capital intensive for the South Fork,” Mr. Neely said.

The approach presented during last week’s forum integrated the two methods on the North and South forks.

If it is ever built, the transportation system—known as a dual concept, because it includes different approaches to public transportation on the two forks—would feature small shuttle trains that would run between Montauk and Speonk every 30 minutes during peak times. Those trains would be coordinated with shuttle buses and seven demand response vehicles that could possibly transport residents from their homes to train stations.

Mr. Neely estimated that riders would pay a fare of approximately $2.50, if the system is ever built.

On the North Fork, there would be more frequent bus service and an express bus from Riverhead to the Long Island Rail Road’s Ronkonkoma train station, and another to Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip. There would also be a shuttle bus connecting the North Fork with the South Fork. Currently, Suffolk County’s S-92 bus route runs from Montauk to Southold.

“The final details still have to be worked out,” Mr. Neely said on Tuesday.

During the forum, Mr. Neely explained that the next step in the process would be for the five East End towns to adopt resolutions supporting the initiative. Once that happens, Mr. Thiele said that elected officials from the towns would then meet with the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the LIRR to determine whether or not those agencies would support the initiative.

Mr. Thiele said it is not clear what entity would oversee the proposed bus and rail system. He said that, ideally, it would be under the jurisdiction of both the LIRR and MTA, but added that it was also possible to create a new authority to oversee it.

Many of the 50 or so audience members who attended the forum seemed enthusiastic about the plan.

Southampton Town Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, who is running for town supervisor, noted that transportation systems like the ones discussed at the forum are already implemented in other countries. She said that improved public transportation would allow students to travel for school and work, when they otherwise might not have been able to do so.

“So many of our kids can’t get jobs,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “They can’t get themselves to activities.”

Edvin Stromsten, the chairman of the Planning and Governance Committee for the American Institute of Architects Peconic, said he would like to see an aggressive timetable for the project. He also wants organizers to do a better job at spreading the word about the plan.

“One of the keys to success here is the public needs to be much more aware than it is now,” he said.

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The RESULTS were presented. What the heck were the results? How much? Is this feasible or not? Come on people, get with the program.
By MAW (2), Bellport on Sep 23, 09 10:32 PM
Well...We are not Massachusetts...or like any other area out here on the E.End of Suffolk County...I would have thought Thiele would have realized that since he has been living here...but than again he has swithched parties and the party he now belongs to wants DEVELOPMENT and yet they claim they are GREEN...
I suggest that in these economic times instead of me and the rest of the community paying for people to be bussed in from up the island or even on the train for us to than pay for the care ...more
By UNITED states CITIZEN (207), SOUTHAMPTON on Sep 24, 09 6:31 AM
correction: It's called a dual concept because it blends two alternatives that were studied during the lengthy study process: The north fork folks liked the idea for augmenting bus service and implementing incremental improvements in existing rail service; the south fork representatives were more interested in a coordinated raill-bus network.

the study was done by locals who are deeply committed to preserving the things that make the east end such a special place. this article barely ...more
By jm (17), Hampton Bays on Sep 24, 09 9:33 AM
1 member liked this comment
The railroad lines need to be condemned and turned into a truck lane on the south fork. Or at the very least a town bypass like route 48 on the North Fork. I would imagine that if you were to seperate the south fork rail road line away from the rest of the operation its prbably not very profitable. This would solve alot of congestion problems on the southfork. The rest could then be handled by adding buses to the exisitng routes, which should be done anyway as its simple fast and not tremendously ...more
By North Sea Citizen (564), North Sea on Sep 24, 09 10:48 AM
The idea is to consume less energy.
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Oct 6, 09 8:27 AM
Public transportation is not the answer to the congestion problems of the East End.

The whole economy is based on servicing the needs of rich people, which means vehicular traffic traveling around all day, to highly dispersed locations, carrying constuction labor & tools, or mops and brooms, or pool cleaning equipment, or party rental equipment, or whatever.

None of this sort of congestion will change with the introduction of any bus/rail transport system.
By nicole (96), Hampton Bays on Sep 24, 09 5:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
Well put. In addition, the masters of the universe that vacation here won't be caught dead using coordinated bus & rail to go to the beach, or shopping, or out to lunch or dinner.

Which is not to say that we shouldn't have more than 3 trains a day east of the canal. There is no solution to traffic here other than restricting further development.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Oct 5, 09 6:37 PM
Would this supplement the Hamptons Subway? Was Commissioner Aspinall consulted?
By Remsenburger (11), Remsenburg on Sep 25, 09 12:05 PM
"$117 million and $148 million to build, and about $44 million a year to operate." How could this immense investment possibly be justified? There is hardly money for the necessities of government, yet career politicians continue to offer up ever new ways to spend taxes and incur debt as if there were a surplus of funds. It is this unrealistic attitude that permeates government at all levels and will hopefully cause voters everywhere to examine whom they elect not by how much they promise to spend, ...more
By RichardBlumenthal (24), Westhampton Beach on Sep 29, 09 4:38 PM
Glad to see the article's been expanded. But there's a pretty big typo in the headline.
By jm (17), Hampton Bays on Sep 30, 09 8:40 AM
By timebomb (4), moriches on Sep 30, 09 10:42 PM
I'm glad this study cost 100 million less than originally planned. 147 million for a study about transportation seems a little excessesive though . Oh wait, thats just a crazy error in your headline.
By Aspatuck Gardens (30), Westhampton Beach on Oct 5, 09 5:56 PM
We do need a faster way to shuttle people up and down both forks. If the purpose of this study was to explore ways to connect the north and south forks, I would not pay the bill. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
By Ebby (75), Sag Harbor on Oct 5, 09 7:40 PM
True true. I would rather see the money spent improving the unimproved roads and brining them into the Towns highway system. Many year round people live on unimproved roads and are paying taxes for road maintenance that they do not receive. Its about time that the town restart its private roads program that Tom Lavalle ran. Its not fair to pay taxes for something you dont get. Town Law 200 places all the burden on the property owners on the street yet anyone can use it. Who is paying for this transportation ...more
By North Sea Citizen (564), North Sea on Oct 6, 09 6:51 AM
According to Shell oil company there will be a serious gas shortae by 2013. Better get ready!
By artizt101 (29), Hampton Bays on Oct 6, 09 7:06 AM
A shortage that all of the Big Oil companies created? There's no shortage...and there won't be without a falsely created one for profit. i.e. Exxon/Mobil making record profits while jacking the prices.
By mjb (14), This Island on Oct 19, 09 4:51 PM
power tools, home improvements, building supplies, Eastern Long Island