East Hampton and Southampton officials are preparing for the launch of increased commuter rail service early next year.

Commuter Service Infrastructure Discussed

Southampton and East Hampton Town officials pitched infrastructure needs like increased parking in Hampton Bays and an intermodal shuttle service to coincide with a proposal for extra commuter trains on the South Fork at a work session in Southampton on Thursday, July 19.

Southampton officials have plans to construct about 30 additional parking spaces off of Ponquogue Avenue in Hampton Bays, south of the Long Island Rail Road train tracks and adjacent to the Hampton Bays Water District property, to address increased commuter traffic to the station.

As part of the plan, a sliver of land covered by grass and trees would be cleared and then developed with a drainage system to address storm water runoff, according to town Public Transportation and Traffic Safety Director Tom Neely. The cost of the project would likely be in the neighborhood of $125,000 and would require a consultation with an engineering firm, he said.

“We would like to get that done prior to the start of the service,” Neely said.

Under the proposed service, three trains would run roundtrip from Speonk to Montauk for commuters throughout the work week. The service would start sometime in February or March to coincide with the start of the LIRR’s spring schedule. Fares would cost commuters about $4 a trip.

Increased bus service, as well as the alignment of schedules, was also discussed to supplement train services for commuters.

East Hampton Town Assistant Planning Director Joanne Pahwuhl, Neely’s East Hampton counterpart on the project, said Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming is working on a measure in the Legislature’s sub-committee for transportation to increase bus service with Suffolk County Transit, and the town is also reevaluating bus routes.

A shuttle service, which is considered a “Last Mile” service to be provided by the towns, would be utilized in addition to Suffolk County Transit. The towns have plans to solicit bids to undertake the service and the services would be paid for by a $500,000 state grant.

While putting together the bid package, planners identified that routes could include an AM and PM service in both Southampton and Bridgehampton. In Bridgehampton, one leg of the shuttle could service the schools and Kmart, and another leg could go north to Sag Harbor. In East Hampton, there would also be AM and PM service at the LIRR stations as part of the package.

“We wanted to be able to provide the potential bidder with the whole picture, so we thought a joint RFP with both towns involved would let them see everything,” Neely said.

Neely said the towns would be reaching out to providers such as the Hampton Jitney and taxi companies to get their take on how the service could be achieved.

“We are casting a wide net and we are going to have, hopefully, a lot of providers come in. We are going to have a bidder meeting about what we are trying to do here. And, then we are going to have them come back in a couple of weeks and come back with their proposals,” he said.

Neely said the RFP would be something “akin” to a bus contract between a provider and a school district, which does not seek full-day service, rather than a traditional transportation contract.

Other suggestions that came up during the presentation included working with employers to arrange ride shares for workers, as well as a pre-tax transit check system, in which employees could have their transit money taken out of their checks before taxes, and the use of an app to purchase tickets.

Neely said he would like to start a public outreach program after Labor Day to let potential commuters know about the proposal.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele, who along with Senator Kenneth LaValle to secure the grant funding, said the plans would allow the railroad to be more utilized.

“We want to maximize that,” he said.

peggy@indyeastend.com