No. 4 Top Story of the Year: MTA proposes North Fork service cuts

12/29/2010 8:01 AM |

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Assemblyman Marc Alessi (left) and county Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) (third from left) vowed to fight the proposed change, explaining that the East End's local businesses were hit hard last year, when the state approved a payroll tax on all businesses, government agencies and schools in an effort to close the MTA's original $1.2 billion budget gap.

East Enders were up in arms when they learned the Metropolitan Transit Authority was considering putting the breaks on weekday train service and winter weekend service along the Greenport line, and cut service to the Hamptons, in order to plug a mounting budget deficit. The MTA explained in January, when it announced the measure, that the line, which runs east of the Ronkonkoma station and spans the North Fork, is its least used and that the move would have only affected about 200 riders daily yet save almost $1 million annually.

What angered many locals even more was that the announcement came just months after New York State instituted a .34 percent payroll tax on all employers in New York City and the surrounding counties, including Suffolk, to help the cash-strapped transit agency’s budget woes.

But a massive outcry from community members, activists and elected officials — and talks of having the East End secede from the MTA to create its own regional transit system — all helped in getting the transit authority to reconsider. The MTA ultimately only eliminated winter weekend service past Ronkonkoma, but kept weekday service. It also changed the train schedule in September to allow juror candidates to take the train to Riverhead courts from points west.

Now the MTA is considering putting smaller diesel-powered shuttle trains in service on the North and South forks to better service the East End. The transit agency has agreed to fund a $2.8 million study to determine the feasibility of running smaller diesel-engine “scoot” trains here and in other areas the LIRR serves.

Talks of seceding from the MTA have since been put on hold.