MTA budgets to ‘scoot’ trains across North Fork

TIM GANNON PHOTO | An older version of an LIRR car 'on blocks' near the Riverhead train station.

The Long Island Rail Road has now put money in its capital budget to design smaller, diesel “scoot” trains that will go back and forth between the Greenport and Ronkonkoma stations, according to Mitch Pally, a member of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board.

“The money is budgeted to design the new train,” he said. “Once we get the vehicle set up, we have to develop a new dedicated track at Ronkonkoma, which will be part of the overall Ronkonkoma redevelopment plan.”

The MTA has budged $37.2 million for the scoot trains, which are also called “diesel multiple units.”

The scoot trains — which are smaller, more cost effective and would make more frequent trips than the larger diesels currently in use — would still use the existing tracks and the existing East End stations, Mr. Pally said. It would just need a separate station and track to be constructed at Ronkonkoma to avoid conflict with other trains, he said.

“We could do this in another place, too, but at the moment, it’s being designed for the North Fork,” Mr. Pally said. “It could also work on the South Fork or on the Oyster Bay line. Basically, at places where the ability to provide additional service on a frequent basis would be beneficial.”

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said he recently spoke with LIRR president Helena Williams, who spoke of “big plans” for the Riverhead station.

“She was hoping, in the not too distant future, to change the business model out here,” Mr. Walter said.

Ms. Williams and the MTA have spoken recently of improving service on non-electrified lines, such as those on the East End.

The MTA’s capital budget states: “The LIRR will initiate purchases of a new, lower cost fleet for scoot services on its diesel branches. This new fleet will allow the LIRR to improve service to portions of its network that are not electrified, thereby addressing customer requests for more frequent service.”

“I’d be happy to see the Long Island Rail Road change their business model for eastern Long Island, but I’m not going to hold my breath in these economic times,” Mr. Walter said.

But Mr. Pally said in an interview that the MTA is committed to the scoot trains.

“There is money in the capital plan to design the cars, and we would not design the cars if we were not committed to making it happen,” Mr. Pally said.

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