For several years, a group called Five Town Rural Transit has been advocating for the creation of East End Shuttle, a coordinated shuttle train and bus network solely for the five East End towns. The plan was to use smaller, two-car shuttle trains on the existing East End railroad tracks, instead of Long Island Rail Road trains, to provide a more frequent rail service back and forth.
Now, the MTA appears to have embraced at least a part of that vision.
According to Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), the MTA has included a $37.2 million expenditure in its five-year capital plan for the purchase of smaller, more reliable diesel trains for LIRR.
The new trains, known as “diesel multiple units,” or “scoot” trains, have smaller engines, are lighter, more cost effective and will travel shorter distances, Mr. Thiele said.
“The Long Island Rail Road is committed to exploring the possibility of providing “scoot” service as a way to increase service opportunities and ridership in eastern Suffolk County,” said Salvatore Arena, a spokesman for the MTA.
“We’re glad to hear this,” said Vince Taldone of Riverhead, who is a member of Five Town Rural Transit. “These trains would be smaller, more energy efficient and would provide more frequent service to the East End.”
The other key component to Five Town Rural Transit’s plan is to establish a network of feeder buses that meet passengers at the trains, Mr. Taldone said. However, getting the so-called scoot trains in place is a good first step, he said.
The LIRR’s East End lines, which end at Montauk on the South Fork and Greenport on the North Fork, have far less frequent train service than points west of Ronkonkoma, and are mostly single-tracks that are not electrified, so only diesel engines can run on them.
The proposed expenditure will permit the LIRR to purchase five of the new trains, which come in sets of two cars, Mr. Thiele said.
When ridership is heavier, another pair of cars can be attached.
According to the LIRR the new trains could “increase frequency of service, increase reliability, and promote intra-island commuting. The new diesels will be ideal to provide additional service in the non-electrified areas of the LIRR east of Ronkonkoma.”
“We are closer than ever to increasing public transportation opportunities for East End residents,” Mr. Thiele said, adding that the region “has clamored for increased service through the implementation of an integrated rail/bus shuttle service.”
“This could be very significant if it happens, and we’re hoping it does,” said Jim Ellwood of Riverhead, who is also a member of Five Town Rural Transit. He said he’d like to get more information, along with confirmation that the LIRR is actually going to move forward with the plan.
But he said getting the shuttles in place is a first step.
“The East End Shuttle was really an ideal,” he said. “If we can get half of that, or even a third of that, it would be welcome.”