Buses to fill in for trains east of Ronkonkoma

Trains running on the eastern end of the Long Island Railroad’s Ronkonkoma branch between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays will be temporarily replaced with buses starting March 4.

Commuters who normally board eastbound or westbound trains at the Medford, Yaphank, Riverhead, Mattituck, Southold and Greenport stations or eastbound trains at Ronkonkoma Station, will now ride by bus on weekdays. Trains will continue to run between Ronkonkoma and Greenport on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Customers can continue to purchase daily, weekly and monthly tickets for these rides and ticket prices will remain the same.

The switch to buses, which an Metropolitan Transit Authority spokesperson reached via email explained is due to required track maintenance, is expected to last through May 19, when the MTA will issue a new timetable.

The large, diesel-locomotive powered trains that pass through North Fork stations have counted an average of roughly 200 daily riders over the past few years, according to MTA data. They remain one of few public transportation options for a region with just one major thoroughfare. According to an MTA spokesperson, riders heading to or passing through the eastern Ronkonkoma branch stations “can expect up to 30 minutes additional travel time” during the track work period.

“It’s going to be an inconvenience, but the tracks have to get work done on them,” said Michael Hughes of Huntington, one of a handful of customers who exited an eastbound train at Riverhead Station Tuesday morning. For the past few years, Mr. Hughes, who works as a staff attorney at Suffolk County Family Court in Riverhead, has driven to and boarded a train at the Huntington station, transferred at Hicksville from the Port Jefferson branch to the Ronkonkoma line, then arrived at Riverhead. Starting March 4, he will hop off his second train at Ronkonkoma, to board an eastbound bus to Riverhead. 

“I go to the gym in the morning, so [a longer commute] may interfere with my morning, but I guess I’ll just deal with it,” he said. “What are my options?”

In addition to notes on the March 4 timetables, an MTA spokesperson said the authority has already begun informing riders of the changes through posters, platform announcements, the TrainTime app and on the MTA website, Still, some commuters remain in the dark, including Rosemary Gutwillig, who learned of the upcoming changes when a reporter from The Suffolk Times discussed them with her while she sat aboard the 9:30 a.m. train departing Greenport Station Tuesday morning. She was one of two passengers on that train.

Each Tuesday, Ms. Gutwillig, who splits her time between Greenport and New York City, hops aboard a train heading west from Greenport and transfers to a citybound train at Ronkonkoma, which departs at 10:59 a.m. She returns to her East End home in a similar fashion on Thursdays. Beginning on Tuesday, March 5, she will board a bus at 9:37 and catch a 11:22 train out of Ronkonkoma. She said that if her commute has to take longer, she would rather her journey start earlier rather than end later.

“Of all the choices, wouldn’t it be better for [a bus] to come half an hour earlier [in Greenport] and arrive in New York at the usual time?” she proposed. “It would be much more convenient for people.”