Officials rally Friday to bring Sunday buses to the East End

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO Suffolk County transit bus S92 on Railroad Avenue in Riverhead.
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO Suffolk County transit bus S92 on Railroad Avenue in Riverhead.

The East End’s elected officials and businesses leaders are supporting a proposal to increase the Suffolk Transit bus fare by 50 cents in order to add some Sunday bus service to the system.

The East End’s two representatives on the 18-member Legislature, Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) and Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk),held a press conference Friday at the bus stop by the County Center in Riverside to show support.

They were joined at the press conference by Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter, Southold Supervisor Scott Russell, Southampton Town’s transportation director Tom Neely and Vince Taldone of Five Town Rural Transit, a group that is seeking to improve public transportation on the East End, all of whom voiced support for Sunday buses.

Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst wasn’t present but wrote a letter in support.

“Sunday, particularly on the East End, is a busy day,” Mr. Schneiderman siad. “The restaurants, the shops, the hotels, a lot of the businesses depend on a work force that is increasingly dependent on public transportation. Except, that work force can’t get there.”

The bill that will be voted on Tuesday would increase the fare from $1.50 to $2 on just the S92, which goes from East Hampton to Orient, and has the highest Saturday ridership in the county and the second highest overall ridership, and the 10C, which connects locations east of East Hampton to the S92.

The S92 also drops people off at the Riverhead train station and the County Center.

The bill sets the deadline for implementing Sunday service on these two lines as July 3, 2011.

Mr. Schneiderman, who introduced the bill,  said he also has proposed another bill that would increase the fare by 50 cents and provide Sunday buses on nine bus lines throughout the county.

A proposal to fund Sunday bus service was passed by the Legislature last year, but vetoed by County Executive Steve Levy, and the Legislature didn’t have the votes to override it.

“There would be no impact on taxpayers,” Mr Romaine said. The new service would be funded entirely by the revenue generated by the fare hike, he said.

Overall, the fare hike is expected to generate about $300,000, Mr. Schneiderman said. That will be enough to ensure Sunday buses during the summer, but he said he’s not sure if it is enough to do so year round.

He said county bus service also receives substantial state subsidies.

The Riverhead Chamber of Commerce, Tanger Outlet Center and East End Getaway, a tourism web site, have all submitted letters in support of the Sunday bus service, Mr. Taldone said.

“Transportation service on weekends and holidays is a critical component for business to succeed on the East End,” chamber president Janine Nebons wrote. “The lack of weekend and holiday service precludes those employees without access to private transportation to rely on expensive taxi service to get to work, or worse, not being available to work on one of the busiest days of the week, especially during tourism season.”

“The need for this has been clear for a long time,” Mr. Taldone told the Riverhead Town Board Thursday.

“I have no problem with it,” Mr. Walter responded. “Riverhead has the highest bus ridership on the East End.”

Meanwhile, some of the bus riders waiting at the bus stop where the press conference was held said they’d welcome Sunday bus service too.

“I work at Tanger, and there were no buses to there, so a lot of times, I had to walk home to Old Quogue Road (in Riverside), said Frances Zachary.

She was happy to hear that Sunday bus service was being proposed, but it turns out, the buses going to Tanger weren’t among the ones that would get Sunday service.

Another lady at the bus stop, who didn’t give her name, said Sunday bus service should be extended to several bus lines, including the one to the Smithhaven Mall.

“That’s where everybody’s going,” she said. “That or church.”

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