The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has amended its five-year capital plan to budget for light diesel “scoot” trains on the Montauk and Greenport branches of the the Long Island Rail Road, a move that could make life much easier for commuters on the East End come 2014.
New York State Assemblyman , I-Sag Harbor, said the trains were part of the MTA's capital plan when it was designed in 2009, but actual funding for the proposal was never identified until now. The amendment calls for $37.2 million to purchase five new trains for the LIRR, which will serve as shuttles for intra-Island commuting.
Thiele said the proposed “diesel multiple unit” trains come in sets of two cars and are lighter, more cost effective and have smaller engines than typical LIRR trains. When ridership is heavy, another pair of cars can be added to a train to accommodate the additional riders. The LIRR could purchase more in the future if the first fleet of shuttles is successful, according to Thiele.
Shuttle trains were successful during the reconstruction of County Road 39 in Southampton, Thiele said. But these trains will be different, as they will be cheaper to run.
Thiele predicted that the new shuttle service will help boost the number of jobs in the East End tourism and second-home industries. “Transportation alternatives that make it easier to get here and easier to move from hamlet to hamlet will foster the growth of our local economy,” he said.
The train shuttles are a step toward an East End rail-bus network pushed by Five Towns Rural Transit, a nonprofit advocacy group that hopes to solve the area’s congestion woes. A study completed in 2009 by the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center on behalf of the towns of Southampton, East Hampton, Riverhead, Southold and Shelter Island looked at the feasibility of such a commuter network. It recommended that service run for approximately 18 hours per day in season, and 14 hours per day off-season, with the “seasons” each defined as roughly 182 days per year.