Commuters who began climbing aboard the South Fork Shuttle last October to avoid the mess that was County Road 39 construction will now have the option to continue taking the train for an additional month.
According to State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, the commuter shuttle, which was scheduled to suspend service on May 23, will now run through June 26 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The cost of the extension, including reimbursement to local towns for the shuttle’s connected bus service, is being picked up by the state, according to Mr. Thiele. The Long Island Rail Road has approved the plans for the extended service.
The trains, which run from Speonk to Montauk, were initially added to alleviate congestion from reconstruction along County Road 39. Though the shuttle service was slated to end with the completion of that road work, Mr. Thiele stated that the trains should continue running at least until the end of the school year.
“More than 26,000 passengers have ridden the shuttle since late October,” Mr. Thiele said. “The feedback from commuters has been overwhelmingly positive.” Mr. Thiele also said that the success of the shuttle proves that when given the option to use mass transit, South Fork residents will do so.
Though there will be no shuttle service in July and August, there is a possibility that the trains could run again in the fall, perhaps on a permanent basis, according to Mr. Thiele’s office. Mr. Thiele said that he would like to see the shuttle return if commuters will continue using it. The LIRR will determine the future of the shuttle after further evaluating commuter trends.
Southampton Town Transportation Director Tom Neely said the expanded service has been a success, and he has received positive reviews from commuters. Mr. Neely said his office conducted a survey of 150 riders and found that reducing stress caused from driving and saving money on gas were the top reasons for choosing the train.
According to Mr. Neely, public transportation is up 11 percent nationally, mostly due to the rising cost of fuel. “We also found in our survey that riders were concerned about air pollution from their cars,” Mr. Neely said.