Slow Start to New Commute

Ridership on the South Fork Commuter Connection, which launched on Monday, is expected to grow as the weather warms and traffic increases. Christopher Walsh

Though passengers have been few in the first days of the South Fork Commuter Connection, the coordinated rail and bus system operating during peak commuting hours to provide a public transportation option and alleviate traffic congestion, East Hampton and Southampton Town officials expect more passengers as the weather warms and attendant traffic snarls proliferate. 

The connection comprises expanded Long Island Rail Road service and the “last mile connection” shuttle service to take passengers to their workplaces on weekday mornings. Late-afternoon bus and train service returns riders to their stations of origin. The program was launched on Monday. 

Fifteen passengers were on Monday’s first train, which left Speonk at 6:16 a.m., and a dozen were aboard the second morning train, which originated in Hampton Bays at 8:26, according to a release issued by the Town of Southampton. Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming rode the latter train on Monday to officially launch the program. 

Several passengers disembarked upon the trains’ 7:03 and 8:54 a.m. arrivals in East Hampton on Monday, according to a train conductor. One person took the Hampton Hopper to get to work. 

“We don’t see today’s ridership as representational, and expect it to grow as the word gets out and traffic gets more challenging,” Joanne Pilgrim, executive assistant to East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, said on Monday. 

On Tuesday, Mr. Van Scoyoc said that he believed ridership was low on Monday because of inclement weather and a two-hour delay in school openings. There were more passengers on Tuesday, he said, and “we expect that will continue to increase.” 

A driver of the Hampton Hopper, a bus company the town contracted to shuttle riders to and from their workplaces in East Hampton, confidently made the same prediction on Tuesday morning. 

Southampton Town selected the Hampton Hopper for shuttle service in Southampton Village and the Hampton Jitney to service Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor. 

“I want to thank State Assemblyman Fred Thiele and State Senator Ken LaValle for their strong leadership to make this happen,” Mr. Schneiderman said in a statement. “This commuter service took years of hard work at the state and local levels to bring on track.” Ridership is expected to build as traffic grows on Sunrise Highway and County Road 39 in the spring, according to the statement. 

The service will operate Monday through Friday year round except for major holidays and on Fridays during the summer. It offers local L.I.R.R. trips stopping in Speonk, Westhampton Beach, Hampton Bays, Southampton, Bridgehampton, East Hampton, Amagansett, and Montauk. Select trains connect with the shuttle bus services to workplaces and employment centers. 

The current schedule will be in effect through May 17. Summer timetables will be available early in May.