Shuttle Approaches

Feb. 25 target date for first runs of extra trains

The long-awaited effort to alleviate traffic by adding Long Island Rail Road service between Speonk and Montauk in the morning and afternoon has taken a step closer to reality. 

On Tuesday, JoAnne Pahwul, East Hampton Town’s assistant planning director, told the town board that Feb. 25 is the target date for the inaugural runs of two additional eastbound trains that will arrive in East Hampton in the morning, and one additional westbound train leaving East Hampton around 5:15 p.m. 

A key component of the plan is the “last-mile shuttle,” through which commuters would get from train stations to their workplaces and back, and for which the Towns of East Hampton and Southampton will issue a joint request for proposals. 

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle helped to secure $500,000 to fund shuttle ser­vices. 

Southampton, Ms. Pahwul told the board, is prepared to move forward with a request for proposals. “We need to review it,” she said. The towns will issue the request jointly, but will enter contracts with winning bidders individually so that East Hampton “will have complete control over the service” it seeks. 

She asked the board to review and comment on the request for proposals in order to adopt a resolution at its meeting next Thursday to move forward with Southampton. By adhering to that schedule, the request can be advertised in media on Oct. 4, a bidders’ meeting can be scheduled for Oct. 15, and bids would be due on Oct. 30. “We are leaving enough time so we have an opportunity to rebid if necessary,” she said. 

Soliciting a service provider to shuttle people to and from train stations is “relatively new territory” that requires the town to determine how many passengers must be accommodated and what areas would be served by the shuttle service, Ms. Pahwul said. A 2007 survey conducted when the L.I.R.R. provided a similar service during construction on County Road 39 yielded considerable data, including that 77 percent of the 149 respondents took the train every day and that 23 percent, or 34 people, took the train to East Hampton. The town is conducting a new survey to determine how many of its employees live west of the Shinnecock Canal, she said. 

Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said that the L.I.R.R. has asked the towns where additional stations might be sited. A station closer to the Town Hall campus, and to the nearby site where the Southampton Hospital Association plans to construct a freestanding emergency medical facility, makes sense, for example. 

“We don’t really know what ridership will be at a particular stop,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said, and adjustments will be likely as that becomes clear. “As the system becomes more in the public eye, more and more people are likely to take advantage.” 

Traffic to and from the South Fork, where the so-called trade parade clogs the primary route throughout the year, makes it difficult for employers, including the town, to find qualified employees, he said.