East End officials and representatives of the Long Island Rail Road met earlier this month to discuss the possibility of establishing a commuter rail service, from Speonk to Montauk, to try to alleviate traffic congestion in the mornings and evenings—and the president of the LIRR suggested this week that the issue is getting attention.
Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, who attended the July 8 meeting, said he is in favor of the plan. “I am optimistic based on this meeting,” he said at a July 14 Town Board work session held in Hampton Bays. “I’m not saying it’s going to happen this year or next year—but I think it’s a good sign that they’re talking.”
According to the MTA Long Island Rail Road Monthly Ridership Report, throughout the LIRR service area, January-to-May 2016 commuter ridership increased 2.6 percent—or 956,310 people—compared to January-to-May ridership in the previous year. Local officials suggest that a rail option, linked with shuttles to key destinations, might lure some South Fork residents out of their cars and into trains.
“Through the years, commuting patterns changed as workers found employment on the East End,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “Now, we have a tremendous backlog of traffic. The roads cannot handle this volume.”
At an LIRR committee meeting on Monday, the railroad’s president, Patrick Nowakowski, revealed that, as part of the railroad’s July Financial Plan, the LIRR will add year-round weekend service east to Greenport, service that had recently terminated on Thanksgiving and resumed in March.
Railroad officials are working to add other seasonal East End trains to the Hamptons and Montauk and expand its overall East End service, but have been “handicapped by insufficient equipment,” Mr. Nowakowski had said at a June LIRR committee meeting. He added that LIRR officials are exploring options to provide service at a greater capacity by including additional diesel equipment and remote control from towers.
Mr. Nowakowski said Monday that the meetings with officials from the East End have been productive, and several short- and long-term plans are being discussed to try to help with the traffic problems, particularly on the South Fork.
“We tried to identify ways to work together and make some adjustments to the service to make it better—to make it more attractive to the residents out there,” he said. “There is currently a significant reverse commute out there, particularly on the South Fork, that we will work to find a way to improve the commute of people going east in the morning and coming west in the evening. Our service is generally structured to get people into Manhattan and to get people home. This is a situation where people want to go east to get to work. It is a different problem for us.”