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Are The ‘Scoot Trains’ Coming?

Assemblyman Chuck Lavine invited members of the public to an informative meeting held Oct. 1, at the Roslyn Public Library where representatives of the LIRR came to discuss the proposed Scoot Trains for the Oyster Bay to Mineola station run, being considered as a future capital project. Participants included Assemblyman Lavine; Bob Brennan, LIRR director of government  and community affairs; Tim Keller, LIRR general manager, service planning; and Mark Epstein, chair of the LIRR commuter council. Commuters from Roslyn, Glen Cove, Sea Cliff and Oyster Bay attended and shared their traveling knowledge to enlighten the discussion.

The concept is to give riders more choices of time to use the Oyster Bay Branch with the addition of Scoot Trains that would go every half hour on the single track line. The trains would end in a siding to be built in Mineola, next to the regular platform for easy access to the many trains that arrive there. Coming home riders will have to walk over the walkway to get to the Scoot Trains waiting at the siding.

Most important to the many commuters who attended the meeting was maintaining the two through trains currently in operation as the 6:50 a.m. from Oyster Bay and the 6:16 p.m. from Penn Station. An engineer from the OB LIRR branch said her riders have even changed their schedules to match the trains’ times. Commuters commented on how much they appreciate the dual diesel-electric trains that go directly into Penn Station without a change of train. The LIRR representatives all promised they appreciated the commuters appreciation of the service and said they will maintain it. The proposed Scoot Trains will be an addition to the current favorite rides.

Commuters viewed the catch in the proposal occurring when the Scoot Train passengers meld into another train coming into the station and filled with passengers. They were concerned that someone who has to change at Mineola may experience not getting a seat for the long ride into Manhattan.

Comfort on the long ride is a commuter concern. One commuter said he arrives at Penn Station in time for the 5:33 p.m. train but waits for the 6:16 p.m. because he knows it will be a pleasanter trip, with no changes, and with room for riders.

The LIRR representatives said this was the first time they met with commuters to discuss the Scoot Trains for the North Shore and hope for more opportunities to talk about the concept. They took email addresses of the attendees with the promise to send them information about future meetings.

This is a future project and the commuters had a great deal to contribute, including one who said, “Build it and they will come.” The current diesel-electric trains have a 35-year lifespan, of which 15 years are complete. That will give time for a new concept to be tested he said.

Several people said the commute for people living in Sea Cliff is “horrible and keeps people from moving there, and keeps  property values lower.” There were no solutions offered.

LIRR General Manager, Service Planning Tim Keller, explained their goal was only to increase service and he added, saving time might be a wash but he hoped it might possibly be shorter but the focus was on service.

It would appear that overall the commuters want an electrified system that delivers them in comfort and without changing trains. Ticket cost was not discussed although one commuter said her trip from Oyster Bay cost $276 and was concerned the Scoot Trains would have add an extra fee, but Keller said no.

Bob Brennan LIRR director of government & community affairs said the LIRR is working currently building a double track to increase ridership on the Farmingdale to Ronkonkoma line, known as The Main Line where 40 percent of their ridership is based.  LIRR President Helena Williams just signed the project’s labor contract, he said. They are also working on their East Side Access to Grand Central Station with the MTA and Capitol Construction group. It will be ready by 2019/2020. That will also mean altering the Sunnyside Yards for that connection under the East River and into GCS. Currently the tunnel is being outfitted with equipment.

Brennan said this is the 100th anniversary of the Jamaica Station, which will be celebrated on Oct. 23. “We are finishing it as we speak,” as he called it, a way overdue renovation.

Other Ramifications

One of the commuters said if service on the OB LIRR line was increased it would stop riders from going to Syosset and Hicksville and clogging up those areas with parked cars. A woman from Glen Cove commented that she can’t find parking and can’t get a Town of Oyster Bay parking permit, which would allow her to use the Hicksville parking building. Long Islanders all can share the problems of parking to ride.

For more information you can call the assemblyman at 516-676-0050. Hopefully there will be more meetings on the LIRR’s plans.