The Long Island Railroad is planning to add a fourth train on weekdays to the Greenport branch beginning this fall, railroad officials told the Southold Town Board yesterday.
The railroad is also looking to add two weekend trains to and from Greenport seasonally, beginning next May, according to Steven Ellinghaus, strategic investments manager for the railroad said. The additional weekend trains still need approval from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Southold planning director Heather Lanza, who serves on the Southold Transportation Commission’s railroad subgroup said MTA board member Mitch Pally, who represents Long Island on the MTA board, said last week the MTA is committed to funding the initiative.
Officials hope that enhanced train service will help alleviate congestion on local roads and the region’s escalating parking problems, transportation commission chairman Neb Brashich said.
There are currently three trains in and out of Greenport on weekdays, LIRR service planning senior manager Anthony Kingren said yesterday. The fourth weekday train will arrive in Greenport at 8:45 a.m. and depart at 10 a.m. The train that currently departs Greenport at noon would be pushed back to 2 p.m., he said.
The plan for weekends would have trains arriving in Greenport at 5:45 a.m., 11 a.m., 4 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, from May to November. They would depart Greenport at 7 a.m. noon, 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. The off-season schedule would be unaffected.
All trains would make all stops between Greenport and Ronkonkoma in both directions, Kingren said.
“This is the first significant response we’ve had from the railroad,” Brashich told the town board.
“Mitch [Pally] has made a difference,” Supervisor Scott Russell said. “He is accessible and easy to talk to.”
Plans to increase train service to the North Fork are a turnaround from the MTA’s former stance. The authority in January 2010 proposed to all but eliminate service on the Greenport branch, cutting all but summer weekend service. The MTA cited low ridership on the line as justification for the cuts, which drew sharp criticism from outraged elected officials. Officials countered with a proposed new public transit authority to serve the East End and renewed their call for the repeal of the MTA payroll tax. Eventually, the MTA backed off the planned cuts and began expanding service to the North Fork.
The increased rail service, while most welcome, does not address moving people around the region without private vehicles, Brashich noted.
Brashich addressed the board about a “townwide parking problem,” and asked the board to hire an intern from Stony Brook University to research how other communities similar to Southold have handled similar issues. He also suggested the town hold “a series of charrettes” to provide residents with an opportunity to be involved in devising solutions.
“Through a series of community meetings, people will realize we’re not what we used to be,” Councilman William Ruland said, “and if we don’t act in the best interests of everyone, things well get worse than we’ve already seen.”