May 24, 2006
Expanded Service On S92 Bus Line Announced
Workers whose daily commute has long been an exercise in survival of the fittest can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
Last week, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy announced that four new routes will be added to the S92 bus line, which originates in Orient and ends in East Hampton.
Just weeks ago, The Independent reported that each morning, riders who depend on the bus to get from their homes in Riverhead to their work places out east were growing increasingly desperate. Drivers, faced with overcrowded buses and no recourse, were forced to leave many riders each day behind. In the evening, workers who missed the last bus were sometimes forced to sleep in the Southampton woods.
The added routes are the second line expansion for the S92 since Levy took office in 2004.
"For a variety of reasons, reliance on the public transportation system is continuing to grow," said Levy. "This is most evident on the S92 line, where riders were at times turned away because the bus was full."
Earlier this year, Levy had the transportation division of the Department of Public Works examine the line and develop an upgrade plan to handle the excess capacity on the S92.
Beginning June 5, north-to-south service from Greenport and Riverhead to the South Fork will begin one-half hour earlier, at 5:15 a.m. This bus will travel as far as Bridgehampton, arriving at 6:50, and then begin a return trip to the North Fork at 7 a.m., providing additional service for "reverse" commuters going from the South Fork to the North Fork in the morning which previously did not begin until 8 a.m.
During the evening rush hour, Suffolk will add a new 4:10 p.m. trip to the North Fork, originating in East Hampton and arriving in Greenport at 6:20. That bus will then turn around and provide an additional north-south trip at 6:30 from Greenport to East Hampton.
"We hope these changes will provide added flexibility for the people who rely on our public transit system and address the needs of the riders," added Levy.
"This bus route is a lifeline for many workers," said Riverhead Supervisor Phil Cardinale. "I am very pleased that the county has taken this important first step to improve this essential service linking the North and South Forks."
In May of 2004, Levy doubled the morning and evening routes, with service running every half hour, instead of every hour, after receiving many complaints about infrequent service.
In 2005, Levy ordered a comprehensive review of the transit system to reflect changing demographics, population shifts, and needs of the riders. That review will begin this summer, and will be conducted by Philadelphia-based public transportation consultants Abrams-Cherwony and Associates.
Legislator Jay Schneiderman said the news of additional bus service was good. Schneiderman, who has been a strong proponent of increased service, originally fought to fund the additional routes last year but was told that any increase in service would need to wait until the study was completed.
Before receiving the news, Schneiderman was in the process of trying to devise an alternative, such as a 12-seater van, with connectionsLouise Stalzer of Peconic Connections.
In fact, said Schneiderman, he is still pursuing the concept of Sunday service, something that residents pleaded for at recent bus hearings in Riverhead. Schneiderman met last week to discuss the possibility of a pilot program.
Schneiderman explained that there is a $100,000 grant available from Suffolk County United Veterans Association, but only $50,000 would be necessary to provide Sunday van service as a pilot program.
Such a program would provide the data necessary to determine if Sunday service is viable or necessary. Since the grant is given based on matching funds, Schneiderman said the goal is to try and receive $25,000 from the county and $25,000 from the veterans group.
As for the recent addition of service, Schneiderman believes that the heat of media attention "made a huge difference."
Vince Taldone, Riverhead resident and member of the board of directors of 5Town Rural Transit, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that is advocating for a coordinated rail and bus network to serve the needs of the Peconic Bay community, was thrilled with the news.
Taldone, who cannot drive because of vision problems and relies on public transportation, has been vocal in his quest for enhanced service. He thanked Cardinale and Southampton Town Skip Heaney, as well as Schneiderman, for their focus on public transit needs.
"In addition to the media attention, I suspect that the county moved quickly, at least in part, due to the pressure from local elected officials," he said.
In addition to additional routes, said Taldone, "If they finally add late evening and Sunday service, we might actually have something that resembles a modern public transit system."