Leaders from Southampton and East Hampton towns have worked long and hard to bring the South Fork Commuter Connection to fruition. The effort to provide more commuter trains — and reduce the number of vehicles on already overcrowded roads — is about to begin as a one-year pilot program in March.
The Long Island Rail Road, whose regular service is geared to meet the needs of upisland commuters headed to New York City and not schoolteachers heading to East Hampton, has agreed to provide two more eastbound trains starting in Speonk each morning and two more westbound trains in the afternoons.
The sticking point has always been how to move the hundreds of hoped-for commuters from train stations to their places of employment. Officials think that problem will be solved, thanks to a $500,000 grant from New York State, which was procured by Assemblyman Fred Thiele and Senator Ken LaValle, that will be used to pay the Hampton Jitney and Hampton Hopper to shuttle commuters from the depot to their places of employment.
Unfortunately, even if both extra commuter trains are filled to standing room only, and every shuttle bus is filled to capacity, the Commuter Connection will probably have little impact on traffic congestion, especially when the weather warms and the trade parade picks up again in earnest with plumbers, painters, landscapers, and all manner of other service people heading this way to care for their well-heeled clients on the East End.
That’s not to say it’s a bad idea and should be discarded. In fact, local leaders should be applauded for their efforts. It’s just that the problem of traffic congestion is far larger and more difficult to solve than simply adding a couple more trains each day.
Face it, until something is done to provide more housing for the worker bees who serve the local economy, more places for tradesmen to house their businesses east of the canal, and more options in mass transit — better local bus service, anyone? — we will continue to confront an annoying and dangerous condition on our local roads.