Trolleys on their way to the East End?

Carrie Miller
The Suffolk Times

Could the East End become the next San Francisco, with packed trolleys carrying passengers between Riverhead and Orient?

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone seems to think so.

While meeting with North Fork community leaders at the Southold Senior Services Center last Wednesday, Mr. Bellone discussed the need to update transportation systems throughout Suffolk County.

A “rapid trolley system,” he said — one that could run between train stations — would best connect East End communities.

“If we’re going to have sustainable economic growth, we can’t do it by just adding more cars to the roadway,” Mr. Bellone said in an interview Tuesday. “So we need to build upon the transportation infrastructure we already have in a way that will allow some of this growth to occur.”

Mr. Bellone said that the county could use the Long Island Rail Road’s current lines as a starting point to build “a transportation system that connects off that — essentially, a rapid trolley system [that] could bring people to the places they need to be.”

It’s probably still years away but trains could be running more frequently to the East End.

Last year, the Long Island Rail Road put money into its capital budget to design smaller, diesel “scoot” trains that will run back and forth between the Greenport and Ronkonkoma stations with more frequency than regular trains, according to the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

Meanwhile, county officials are “gearing up” to begin an implementation study to help officials design an East End Transportation Plan — which Mr. Bellone said he hopes will not only boost tourism but give younger and aging populations alike a better navigation system to enjoy the area. The system’s end goal is to give people the ability to “realistically come out and utilize public transportation without having to utilize their car,” Mr. Bellone said.

Vincent Taldone of 5 Town Rural Transit advocacy group, a nonprofit that works toward improving transportation across the East End, said Mr. Bellone’s vision is welcome news, since the county is now taking steps to improve the area’s current system.

County buses, he said, can’t be relied upon to connect to existing East End trains lines at the right time.

The necessity and feasibility of an updated transportation system has been thoroughly researched, most notably in a 2009 study conducted by Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.