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Jan 26, 2010 5:12 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

MTA plans to shut down train service to the North Fork

Jan 26, 2010 5:12 PM

Eight months after Albany approved a payroll tax to help close the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s massive budget gap, the agency announced this week that it will halt nearly all train service to the North Fork, and eliminate one westbound train on its Montauk line serving the South Fork, in order to save money.

In a statement released on Monday, January 25, the MTA announced a proposal that would terminate nearly all Long Island Rail Road service between Ronkonkoma and Greenport starting in September. If the plan is advanced, the MTA would continue to offer service to the North Fork only on weekends during the summer. As per the proposal, train service otherwise would be eliminated for all stations along the Greenport line, including stations in Medford, Yaphank, Riverhead, Mattituck and Southold.

On the South Fork, the LIRR is proposing to cancel a 4:30 p.m. peak train that runs from Huntersport Avenue, Brooklyn, to Montauk, also effective in September. That train will be available again on Fridays during the summer months, according to the MTA proposal.

Rebecca Molinaro, an aide to New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., said that Mr. Thiele had spoken to MTA representatives on Monday and they told him there are no plans to make further cuts affecting LIRR service on the South Fork. But that does not mean that the LIRR’s Montauk line could not someday share the fate of the Greenport line, Ms. Molinaro said.

“I think it still remains to be seen what that final product will be, and we’re certainly concerned about a possible ripple effect for the South Fork,” she said.

MTA representatives did not return several calls seeking comment this week.

On Tuesday afternoon, Joe Calderone, a spokesman for the LIRR, said there are no plans on the table to make further cuts to railroad service on the Montauk line.

“The South Fork and the North Fork are completely different in terms of ridership,” he said. “We have a lot more ridership on the South Fork.”

The proposed closing of the Greenport line will save the MTA an estimated $991,000 in 2011, according to the transportation agency. The elimination of stops on the North Fork is part of a wider set of proposed service changes throughout the LIRR system that the MTA said will save $6.3 million in 2010 and $11 million in 2011. The Greenport line is the only branch that will be almost entirely eliminated under the current proposal.

The transportation agency also estimates that it will save $396,000 a year by cancelling the single Montauk train, which about 310 people ride east of Jamaica, Queens, each day.

The MTA said it will be altering many of its services throughout the greater metropolitan area in an effort to close a $400 million budget shortfall that it became aware of in December.

On Monday, several East End politicians released statements decrying the proposal to drop service on the Greenport line. Suffolk County Legislator Edward P. Romaine held a press conference at the Riverhead train station Monday morning during which he voiced support for the formation of a new public transportation authority that would serve both forks of eastern Long Island.

“The East End can no longer serve as a cash cow to fund a system that mainly benefits New York City,” Mr. Romaine said in a statement released Monday. “If the MTA refuses to provide service, the Peconic region should immediately secede from the MTA and establish its own transportation authority.”

Mr. Thiele also spoke out against the new MTA payroll tax. “To be paying more and getting less service, I think it’s pretty hard to explain to people,” Mr. Thiele said on Monday.

The MTA plan will eliminate the two westbound and two eastbound trains that travel between Ronkonkoma and Greenport each weekday and carry about 190 daily commuters, according to the MTA. The four westbound and four eastbound trains that serve the North Fork on weekends will also stop running, except during the summer months, as part of the cutback.

The service cut comes in the wake of another effort to put the MTA in the black. In May, New York Governor David Paterson approved a new payroll tax that was designed to help close the MTA’s budget gap. The tax, which took effect on September 1, requires that employers operating in the 12 counties near New York City, including Suffolk County, pay 34 cents on every $100 in employee wages, with the revenues supporting the MTA.

At the time, lawmakers in Suffolk County, as well as the representatives of local hospitals, governments and businesses, contended that the tax was unfair because the MTA provides limited service to the East End. The proposed cut in services to the North Fork seems to have already renewed interest to a push in recent years to establish the East End’s own public transportation authority.

In 2003, Mr. Thiele sponsored a bill in the New York State Assembly to create a Peconic Bay Regional Transportation Authority, and it has since been held for consideration by the Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee. Mr. Thiele said Monday that he was planning on forging ahead with the bill as a result of the proposed service cut.

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This is really just another in a long string of insults by the MTA-LIRR towards eastern L.I.

The fare structure is biased, service is better as one gets closer to NY City and L.I. pays much in taxes - all for what?

The Eastern L.I. Transit Authority NEEDS to be established.
By Candide08 (8), Sag Harbor on Jan 26, 10 5:35 PM
The MTA is a financial joke. The payroll tax was an insult when it was instituted last fall. This is just insult to injury. We shouldn’t stop at a Peconic Transit Authority; maybe it’s time to rethink organizing the 5 east end towns. “Peconic County Now”
By snfork (6), ORIENT on Jan 26, 10 6:00 PM
Will the MTA suspend the payroll tax for north fork residents once service is cut?
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on Jan 26, 10 7:25 PM
1 member liked this comment
Privatize the tracks...allow lease of tracks for independent service...remove politics, bureaucracy, unions and all the other silliness that public transport is buried under....
By voter (33), Amagansett on Jan 26, 10 9:18 PM
2 members liked this comment
They take your money, give you the middle finger and cut your service all in the same breath. This is our reality, PRIVATIZE! Tucker, are you listening?
By ride the truth wave (125), southampton on Jan 26, 10 10:11 PM
Yeah LIRR, because CARS are a much more efficient form of transportation.

And DUH, people, the railroads STARTED OUT privatized (Pennsylvania Railroad owned LIRR, remember?) way back when and they were going bankrupt. So THAT didn't work. Later, they became publicly owned, MTA etc.

Chris Matthews on Hardball this week was right: The stimulus money SHOULD be going to mass transit infrastructure instead of to governors and mayors to help meet their payroll. We have no high-speed ...more
By Undertow (64), Southampton on Jan 26, 10 10:28 PM
1 member liked this comment
So screw the people who would like to commute from eastern long island, get reamed with extra taxes and still have no service to speak of... way back when does not equate to the here and now...
By ride the truth wave (125), southampton on Jan 26, 10 10:46 PM
All of us on the East End should not pay the new tax. No Service, No Money!!!
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Jan 27, 10 7:29 AM
1 member liked this comment
My main point is... privatizing won't work. It didn't work back then, and it won't work in this economic climate, surely. What bank is gonna give out the massive loans needed by purchase track, property, rolling stock, hire staff, buy advertising, etc. etc. etc. It's far cheaper to figure out how to keep LIRR serving that branch. Local reps should and will jump on this, as a successful outcome would surely be a feather in anyone's political cap.
By Undertow (64), Southampton on Jan 27, 10 8:50 AM
I wish we would block the shinnecock canal car bridges and allow ferry service only. We can count on Shelter Island to do their part, now lets step up to the plate. Give the indian nation the franchise but demand they charge a fare of at least $15 cars one way and build a really nice facility (like a $100 million dollar project) for biking, carpooling, mass transit, culture, etc. on the east side.

Plus allow them to launch gambling boats from the same facillity. Life is too short ...more
By deKooning (106), southampton on Jan 27, 10 9:37 AM
The LIRR is a disaster. Always delays and problems. Everyone should walk away from them now. The Hampton Jitney offers service on the North Fork as well as the South Fork. That might be a better choice than the LIRR. They don't care about us who needs them.
By lifesaver (118), speonk on Jan 27, 10 10:12 AM
The LIRR happens to be the largest commuter railroad in the country, maybe the world. There are bound to be problems and delays. However, the percentage of times I ride their route AND I experience problems or delays is VERY small. AND, their fares are quite less than the Jitney. I can drive half-way up-island to stations such as Speonk, Ronkonkoma, Babylon, Hicksville, and get regular and frequent service (meaning 20 to 30 minutes between departures) to/from NY Penn without even having to consult ...more
By Undertow (64), Southampton on Jan 27, 10 10:38 AM
1 member liked this comment
Know what you are talking about, on the North Fork, Hampton Jitney Regular One Way North Fork Fares are CHEAPER than LIRR zone 14 peak one way fares, and during off peak the HJ is only 75 cents more (using a Value Pack).
The HJ service is superior to the LIRR in every way possible, and it does not take an extra dime of tax money. As for driving from, in my case, Southold, to Ronkonkoma, are you serious ???. If I can't use my local LIRR station, then the LIRR does not exist to me. Further ...more
By EEGO (10), Bridgehampton on Feb 2, 10 7:18 AM
Peconic County.

Peconic County Regional Transportation Authority.

Sounds good to me.

Time to take back our rights.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 27, 10 6:52 PM
Like it isn't bad enough that we ALREADY have to travel and hour or more west to be able to efficiently USE the train!! If I have to go into the city and am not comfortable enough to drive, I STILL have drive to the Ronkonkoma station to be able to get in and out of the city when it's most convenient, not waiting around for four hours to take the next train on the Montauk line. This is crap! We already pay a ridiculous amount of money for bad service, unless, of course, it's the summertime and there ...more
By LocalMom (36), Southampton on Jan 28, 10 8:50 AM
What makes the summer people so special that they will get train service?
By WHB grad 84 (1), Westhampton on Jan 29, 10 1:26 PM
1 member liked this comment
Doesn't the MTA realize that if they ran MORE trains, they'd get more ridership on these lines? And wouldn't that bring in more money? And isn't that their whole problem? What a bunch of idiots!!
By LocalMom (36), Southampton on Jan 29, 10 6:43 PM
An earlier version of this story misidentified the Hunters Point Avenue train stop.
By BOReilly (135), 27east Web Editor on Feb 3, 10 1:53 PM
Who cares about the north fork - they don't care about us!
By BIGjimbo12 (201), East Quogue on Feb 4, 10 4:32 PM