Editorial: More trains needed to the end of the line

02/19/2016 6:00 AM |

When it was enacted in 2009, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority payroll tax, which is now levied on all businesses in the area that exceed $1.25 million in annual revenue, was decried as an unconstitutional job-killing measure that unfairly hurt the East End.

Seven years later, at least one of those claims still rings true: It’s unfair.

As Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo points out in this week’s article on the lack of weekend Long Island Rail Road service to the North Fork, “We pay our fair share of taxes for the MTA, so why aren’t we getting the full service?”

Not only does the Greenport line receive minimal service, no trains go there on weekends during the winter. Even a failed plan to bring scoot trains to the Greenport line has no solution on the horizon.

So while all of Suffolk County gets looped into the LIRR’s “service area,” nothing resembling “service” makes its way to the end of the Greenport line at the time of year when local businesses need visitors the most.

This is ironic, considering how much New York State’s regional economic development council has spent in recent years to market the North Fork as a year-round tourist destination. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on grants to support Winterfest (which, by the way, starts today), marketing campaigns aimed at building the area’s visibility with national and international audiences and offseason pilot programs that transport visitors via shuttle bus.

If the state is going to spend so much to make the North Fork a tourist destination, it would make sense to run at least one or two round-trip Greenport trains each weekend to actually get tourists out here. It’s like the left hand (the MTA) doesn’t know what the right hand (the economic development council) is doing.

Representatives at the state level, including Mr. Palumbo and state Sen. Ken LaValle, owe it to North Fork taxpayers to work on opening those train lines.

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