The future of mass transit is now, Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming said Monday morning, March 4.
She was riding the first Long Island Railroad South Fork Commuter Connection train, a program that local politicians have been working on for years. It is designed to get the workers who commute to the East End off crowded Montauk Highway, and to work and back much faster and more efficiently.
“The future of transportation is different modalities,” Fleming said. “You have to do the on-demand stuff. You need vans, you need buses, you need trains, bikes. Let’s get everybody out of their cars,” she said.
Riding alongside of her was Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman. On the train, he said, “You go from Hampton Bays to Southampton Village in 10 minutes.” Both Southampton Town and East Hampton Town have contracted with, alternately, the Hampton Jitney and the Hampton Hopper to take workers the final mile, from the train station to employment centers across both towns.
The opening day turnout was fairly light, a dozen or less on the first two eastbound morning trains. The light turnout might have been due in part to the bad weather to the west. “I think this is going to be used more and more,” Schneiderman said. By April, the traffic starts to pick up, he added. With long delays and stop-and-go traffic on the highway, he believes the train will
become an attractive alternative.
“Every person on the train is one less car on the road,” said Fleming, adding as the train passed over the Shinnecok Canal, “The view is great.”
Both officials credited one fellow politician, who was not along for the debut ride, for making the program possible: New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele. He was in Albany this week, where budget negotiations between Governor Andrew Cuomo and the legislature have stalled.
One person who plans on jumping board the commuter connection is Rich Madden, a butcher at Cirillo’s Market-Amagansett IGA. He wasn’t riding the rails Monday because he thought the program was due to begin next week. He is looking forward to using it, particularly during the coming summer season.
“During the summer, the ride home can take two or three hours,” he said. Home is in Center Moriches. Madden plans to carpool with another IGA employee who lives in Patchogue on a daily basis. Wednesdays, he said, are particularly bad days, traffic-wise, on the westbound evening ride on Montauk Highway.
“You’ve got plenty of the vans out here doing work on people’s houses, pickup trucks all over the place, and everyone seems to leave at the same time. It is one giant conga right to the Shinnecock Canal,” he said. “I have seen turtles actually go right past me while I’m waiting in traffic.”
The service consists of two new weekday eastbound morning trains that connect with the shuttle service. An early train leaves Speonk at 6:16 AM and arrives in Amagansett at 7:08 AM. A later train leaves Hampton Bays at 8:26 AM and is scheduled to arrive in Montauk at 9:19 AM.
Two new westbound trains have also been added, with one leaving Montauk at 2:48 PM and arriving in Speonk at 4:14 PM, and a later train leaving Montauk at 4:50 PM and terminating at Hampton Bays at 5:43 PM.
Fares are $4.25 each way, including the shuttle service. For more information, visit www.sfccLIRR.com.