‘Last Mile’ Bus Service Secured for LIRR’s South Fork Commuter Runs

Last spring, Joanne Pahwul, East Hampton Town’s assistant planning director, and Tom Neely, Southampton Town’s transportation director, discussed with the East Hampton Town Board a timeline for for the board to develop with the Town of Southampton a “last mile” commuter connection service to take LIRR commuters directly to their places of work on the South Fork. Contracts for the service were awarded this week. Peter Boody photo

With just weeks to go before the Long Island Rail Road’s “South Fork Commuter Connection” train service begins on March 4, the Southampton Town Board on Tuesday agreed to contract with the Hampton Jitney and the Hampton Hopper bus service to provide “last mile” transportation to and from the Bridgehampton and Southampton train stations to and from local employment centers, including downtown Sag Harbor and Pierson Middle-High School.

Funded by the MTA and state reimbursements, the service is intended to provide people who work locally but live to the west a speedier, inexpensive alternative to their cars for getting to and from their jobs.

“We’re hoping this is going to be really successful,” Supervisor Jay Schneiderman commented after the unanimous vote authorizing him to sign contracts for the last mile service.

If enough riders take the two morning trains the LIRR is adding to the schedule — one originating in Speonk and the other in Hampton Bays — and return on the two afternoon trains, town officials and planners hope they will reduce the “trade parade” traffic crush that clogs major east-west arteries here during rush hours.

The East Hampton Town Board on Tuesday also hired the Hampton Hopper as the “last mile” provider to serve riders getting off or boarding at stations in that townfrom March through April 1, 2020 at cost not to exceed $305,500.

East Hampton Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said last month during a Town Board meeting “there is no way of knowing how many riders will take advantage of the service or where their destinations will be on any given day.”

“We have looked at this and tried to cover the broadest number of bases and service,” he added. “It is critical as this rolls out that the ridership finds it to be convenient and efficient to grow ridership here.”

Southampton Town’s contracts call for a payment of up to $240,000 to the Hampton Hopper to handle the morning and afternoon runs in Southampton Village for approximately 200 days and up to $129,000 to the Hampton Jitney for the morning and afternoon runs to and from the Bridgehampton train station, which will serve Sag Harbor commuters going to Main Street, Pierson High and Middle School and Sag Harbor Elementary School.

The LIRR’s commuter service will operate Monday through Friday, excluding holidays — although one afternoon train will be suspended in the summer to clear the track for the once-weekly Cannonball from New York to the Hamptons — with 260 service days anticipated between March 2019 and 2020. The trains will originate in Speonk and Hampton Bays in the morning, with continuing service through Southampton, Bridgehampton, East Hampton and Montauk. The fare will be $4.25 each way, or $8.50 round trip including the “last mile” bus connection.

Funding for the “last mile” service in the two towns was secured by State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, who announced this week that the governor’s 2019 proposed state budget includes another $500,000 in reimbursement funding, bringing the total available to the towns to $1 million for 13 months of service into 2020. They previously had secured $500,000 in last year’s state budget.

It was Mr. Thiele who lobbied the LIRR to expand its schedule for South Fork commuters by adding eastbound trains in the morning and westbound service in the afternoon. In 2018, the LIRR agree to add four trains to its schedule.

At a Town Board work session on January 17, Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni reported that the planned “last mile” service in Southampton Village will serve Main Street and local schools; in Bridgehampton, it will connect to the Bridgehampton School and the downtown business district and the Bridgehampton Commons mall as well as downtown Sag Harbor and Pierson Middle High School.

Supervisor Schneiderman made it a point for commuters to note that a 6:16 a.m. eastbound train will leave from Speonk but the next morning train, at 8:26 a.m. “If you want the second train, you’ll need to get to Hampton Bays.”

Westbound, there will be a departure from Montauk at 2:48 p.m. that reaches Speonk at 4:14 p.m.; a 4:50 p.m. departure from Montauk will only go as far as Hampton Bays, arriving at 5:43.