Fortunately, I do not have to face the agony of having to commute each day on the South Fork Commuter Connection, but I did rely on the Long Island Rail Road for several decades to commute on weekends between the city and Southampton, so I have ample experience dealing with the railroad’s Montauk schedules, single-track complications, occasional delays or other frustrations — but also the delight of traveling from the city to Southampton on Friday afternoons (frequently on the Cannonball) in less than two hours.
I sympathize with the frustrations of several of the SFCC commuters quoted in the front-page article in the June 16 issue [“Local Commuters Disappointed In LIRR Decision To End Friday Commuter Train,” 27east.com, June 14], but I challenge the following statement in that article: LIRR officials have said they’re unable to run both the commuter train and the Cannonball at the same time.
I don’t know what LIRR official used that as the reason for justifying the suspension of the SFCC service on Fridays, but there are at least three good reasons why that can’t be the actual reason for the summer Fridays suspension.
First, the cannonball runs on Fridays throughout the year, and the LIRR did not find it necessary to suspend the SFCC service on Fridays from the date that the service was re-instituted several months ago until Memorial Day.
Second, during the summer months, the LIRR runs the same Cannonball train on Thursdays (although it is not called the Cannonball on Thursdays and its schedule differs by only a very few minutes). If it can run the same train on Thursdays without interfering with the Thursday SFCC service, why does the same Cannonball schedule on Fridays make that impossible, or even slightly more difficult?
Third, the LIRR has years of experience scheduling eastbound and westbound trains on the single track east of Patchogue by using second “passing tracks” that exist at numerous locations, including Hampton Bays and Southampton. Scheduling eastbound trains at the same time as westbound trains on the Montauk Line single track east of Patchogue is a daily routine experience for the LIRR, so the quoted statement that they cannot do that on Fridays falls on deaf ears.
Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. has said that a group of East End elected officials and businessmen asked the LIRR to at least run one Friday morning SFCC eastbound train, but that “this modest request was rejected by the LIRR.” The issue is too important to end there. Until the group or its representative have appealed up the line of chain of command and have received a statement of credible and unsolvable reasons for the railroad’s current position, the fight should continue — with gusto.
One fine body…