In a meeting meant to discuss ideas for potential traffic solutions with local businesses, a message of those at the roundtable was that there is no “silver bullet” to solve traffic problems and that it’ll take a piecemeal approach to make a difference.
The Wednesday afternoon meeting was called by Southold Town Councilman Bill Ruland and the town’s transportation commission. Several business owners were present and a conversation ensued between the commission’s members, town officials and some town residents. Mattituck Chamber of Commerce vice president David Perrin and Cross Sound Ferry manager Andy Binkowski, who were at the meeting, were asked to share any ideas or suggestions they have on the traffic issue.
“The limitation on our highways is both good and bad,” Mr. Ruland said at the meeting, held at the Peconic Lane Community Center. “You can’t maintain the rural character if you have multi, multi-lane highways. And you can’t maintain your economy if you don’t have the tourists, people to come, and I think we all recognize that.”
“The bottom line,” he said later, “is we are a product of our own success.”
Businesses could perhaps find ways to incentivize visitors to leave their cars elsewhere, transportation commission secretary Tom Fox suggested.
It’s also visitors that will have to adapt and use fewer cars, but that change can’t happen without alternative infrastructure in place, the group agreed.
Many in the discussion noted that, while some evening and weekend LIRR trains have been added, and there’s now an app to track Suffolk County Transit buses, that’s not enough to totally quell the traffic on the North Fork.
Mr. Perrin suggested that a night bus route be considered by the county as one of the “baby steps” that could help and make it so that visitors are not stranded at the end of the day.
The North Fork Link, a shuttle that has 30 stops in a loop around Main Road and Sound Avenue from Riverhead to Greenport, kicks off next weekend. It’s another “drop in the bucket” to reduce the number of cars on the road, Mr. Perrin said.
Cabs are also limited, whether in number or by wait time, and Uber drivers are still in short supply, attendees said. Mr. Binkowski said he sees people step off the Cross Sound Ferry, look at their phones and expect that Ubers or Lyfts will be readily available.
“I think someone could run a cab business out here really well,” said Mr. Binkowoski, who used to run a cab company in Connecticut.
Mr. Binkowski asked whether the town and county could create some sort of agreement where the town would provide a parking location and the county would run a local trolley-type service.
The discussion also turned to parking availability at peak times. The day for metered parking may come, Mr. Ruland said. In other places on Long Island and elsewhere, it’s a given, he noted.
“From the tourist perspective that I see, they expect to pay [for parking],” Mr. Perrin said.
The communities have also increased in size in terms of second homeowners, Greenport Village trustee Mary Bess Phillips said, bringing more seasonal traffic.
“We’re not the small little villages and small little towns we used to be,” she said.
Ultimately, Mr. Ruland and transportation commission chairman Neb Brashich reiterated the importance of keeping the conversation going to find some ways to make a difference.
It will take some thinking outside the box, Mr. Braschich said.