focused on improving rail and bus line transportation from the hub at Ronkonkoma to and from the North Fork during a pitch to Southold Democrats Saturday night.
About 50 democrats, including a few from Riverhead, gathered at a picturesque Peconic Bay-side political party fundraiser in Mattituck on Saturday to hear Babylon Supervisor Bellone speak on the lack of local rail and bus transportation — a county issue that is very specific to the North Fork’s economy, with thousands flocking to the area via automobile to visit farms and vineyards from spring until late fall.
“I’m someone who believes the East End has gotten a terrible deal from the MTA — you have gotten none of the services you are paying for,” he said.
With from Ronkonkoma to Riverhead and Greenport — often at odd hours but with North Fork residents paying the same MTA payroll tax as other better-served Long Island communities — Southold Democratic Committee members have set forth the following goals in transportation improvement proposals (a PDF of these proposals is attached to this article):
1. Reduce dependency upon the automobile for residents, tourists and travelers. To make accessible by public transportation: at Orient Point; shopping, entertainment and recreational sites such as: the , Tanger Outlets, Splish Splash, museums, the courts, vineyards, festivals and special events.
2. Provide transportation for the young, the poor, those who do not drive or do not own cars and those looking to save money due to the increasing cost of gasoline.
3. Reduce traffic and conserve energy.
4. Stimulate business and the economy.
5. Allow for opportunities to commute to work.
Bellone said he supported the creation of an East End Transportation Authority separate from the MTA in order to boost tourism. Bellone was backed by, among others at the event, Bob Meguin, Democratic candidate for Southold Town Supervisor.
“Tourism is reaching a point where it’s just not fun to come here anymore on Saturday afternoons — I'm sure families are screaming and yelling at each other about the traffic,” Meguin said.
Southold Democratic Committee Chairman Art Tillman said that Suffolk County Legis.
“We’re hoping it can be a bi-partisan effort,” he said.
Improved rail and bus transportation is important to Southold resident Joan Ohlson, who attended Saturday night’s gathering, for several reasons.
“I like to think of myself as a New Yorker who lives in Southold — I go to the city a lot,” she said. “The New York lines to Southold don’t run regularly nor do they offer the best fares for senior citizens. And the bus lines are important for people who work out here who don’t have a car.”
Greenport resident Dan Durette said he’s impressed with Bellone overall with his stance on medicare, employment and education issues for Suffolk County, but the transportation issue is very specific to Riverhead and North Fork residents.
“It would be nice to know that I can get to Greenport from Riverhead by train in 20 minutes instead of an hour — which does happen,” he said.
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