After more than a year of absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the South Fork Commuter Connection, the Long Island Rail Road commuter train service with weekday trains from Speonk to Montauk, will be back in action on September 7.
For now, the schedule will be same as it was prior to the pandemic, with two eastbound trains in the morning and two westbound trains in the afternoon. The LIRR is working alongside legislators to try to increase the number of running trains and potentially add “sidings” to the railroad track, which would allow trains to pull off to the side of the track in order to pass each other.
LIRR President Phillip Eng, along with South Fork elected officials including State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, East Hampton Town Councilman David Lys, Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming and Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni, will gather on Friday at 10:15 a.m. at the LIRR station in Hampton Bays to announce the official reinstatement of the service.
Mr. Thiele noted that he is working with the LIRR to develop a capital project to accommodate more frequent train service on the South Fork through track modifications so that trains can pass each other, but he added that this project is still at least a couple of years away.
The SFCC is also looking at possible modifications to last-mile transportation, such as taxis and ride-share services. For now, the bus service, which takes commuters from the train station to a few different destinations, will remain the same.
“We had something successful here before the pandemic,” Mr. Thiele said. “When we restore it this fall, I expect ridership to quickly ramp up and exceed what we had before the pandemic.”
The service was first implemented in March 2019 to alleviate traffic on local highways and allow more transportation alternatives, but was forced to halt service in March 2020 due to the threat of COVID-19.
“Increased public transportation is something we’ve worked on for many years because of the traffic congestion,” Mr. Thiele said. “We were extremely excited about the initial response to the SFCC. The schedule had some limitations, but it worked for a lot of people — people who worked in Town Hall, teachers, people on Main Street.”