South Fork Commuter Connection numbers have excited Assemblyman Fred Thiele.
In the first months since the program’s March 2019 inception, Long Island Rail Road ridership on the South Fork increased 126 percent. The First District assemblyman, who released the research in a press release last week, said numbers from March to August of 2019 were compared with the same period in 2018.
Ridership numbers overall on the South Fork branch went from 14,725 in 2018 to 33,208 in 2019 during that same time period, with the railroad attributing 72 percent of this growth directly to the weekday trains. The connection service runs two eastbound trains in the morning, and two westbound in the afternoon.
According to Thiele, the percentage also skyrocketed from September through November. While the total number of riders is less than during the summer season, the percentage of usage from 2018 to 2019 for that time period went up 366 percent.
Now, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s newly-proposed budget is offering an economic incentive to further that growth. Cuomo secured $500,000 to pay for “the last mile” — what has been deemed a key component of the service. This provides free shuttle bus service for commuters between the train station and their places of work. Previously, that service cost an extra dollar. To ride the train currently costs $3.25 each way.
“It not only reduces congestion on our roads, but reduces carbon emissions,” East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said Friday, also commenting on the impressive first year. Van Scoyoc said once the LIRR adds promised sidings to the single-track South Fork line, it will allow east and westbound trains to pass each other, allowing more trains to run both ways each day.
“The town is very thankful that Assemblyman Thiele has fought so hard to get this program off the ground,” Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said Saturday. “We will continue to do our part.”