JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO
Come September, LIRR trains will be a familiar sight downtown before county courts open at 9 a.m., allowing Suffolk residents to take the train to jury duty and other court business. Trains now arrive too late for residents to commute to Riverhead.
Long Island Rail Road officials announced Monday that they would be adjusting the train schedule to enable potential Suffolk jurors to arrive in Riverhead before 9 a.m. on days when court is in session.
The new schedule will take effect during the next system-wide Metropolitan Transit Authority change on Sept. 13.
As reported in this newspaper in April, the MTA announced the coming adjustments after a meeting at Riverhead Town Hall attended by county Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches), Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter and other East End officials.
LIRR president Helena Williams officially announced the schedule change during an LIRR and Metro North committee meeting this week.
Earlier this year, the MTA proposed eliminating most all train service between Ronkonkoma and Greenport, a move that was intended to help close a $400 million budget shortfall. In March, after resistance from residents and public officials, the MTA decided to keep the line running.
MTA officials said the agency has since been investigating ways to increase ridership on the sparsely used Greenport line.
Providing a train for the 30,000 jurors that are called to serve at both the criminal court on Center Drive in Riverside and state Supreme Court on Griffing Avenue in Riverhead was seen as a cost-effective way to increase ridership to the East End.
“We rationally adjusted the schedule of an existing train,” said LIRR spokesperson Salvatore Arena. “It’s not costing the railroad any more money to do it.”
He said if more people use the Riverhead-bound train, it would mean more revenue for the cash-strapped transit agency.
Suffolk County Commissioner of Jurors Michael O’Donohoe previously told the News-Review that his office had been lobbying for more than three years for a train schedule that would allow jurors to take public transportation.
Under the new schedule, the train will leave Deer Park at 7:45 a.m., make stops at Brentwood at 7:59, Central Islip at 8:03, Ronkonkoma at 8:10, Medford at 8:21 and Yaphank at 8:29, and arrive in Riverhead at 8:55, where a free shuttle will be waiting to take jurors to the nearby courthouses. Trains will depart Riverhead at 1:21 p.m. and 3:58 p.m.
The announcement comes the same week the New York Times published a report examining 685,000 train trips among the LIRR, Metro North and New Jersey Transit, which found that trains traveling on the Ronkonkoma branch were late more often than any other line.
The study reported that trains traveling from Ronkonkoma to Greenport were late one in nine times, or more than any other train on the Ronkonkoma branch. Trains traveling from Ronkonkoma to Riverhead were late one in 10 times and trains between Ronkonkoma and Yaphank were late one in 12 times.
Manhattan-bound trains fared better, according to the survey, with trains traveling between Riverhead and Ronkonkoma being late only one in 31 times. Greenport to Ronkonkoma trains were late one in 19 times.