Doubts raised on Island about supporting East End mass transit effort

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Councilman Ed Brown at a Town Board work session late last year.

Town Board member Ed Brown said this week he’d once again oppose supporting an East End mass transit system because it would not be good for Shelter Island.

At the Town Board work session on February 1, Mr. Brown suggested that board members should take a ride on the county bus that runs between Montauk, Riverhead and Orient and to see how crowded it is with workers. His point was that easier access to mass transit to and from Shelter Island could overwhelm the local work force with competition from outsiders.

“It’s not tourists on that bus,” Mr. Brown said.

The topic came up because the board has been asked once again by state Senator Ken LaValle to give its required “home rule” support to two bills he is sponsoring. He’s done so annually for several years.

One bill would create the Peconic Bay Regional Transportation Council, which would coordinate a long-standing proposal to develop an improved public transit system on the East End with a light rail service connected by feeder bus routes.  Among its goals is a reduction traffic and parking congestion.

Another bill would create the Peconic Bay Regional Transportation Authority, which would develop a plan for mass transit in Brookhaven and the five East End towns. It would have authority to levy a tax that would supplant the tax now paid locally to the MTA to support Long Island Rail Road operations.

Supervisor Jim Dougherty noted that both bills have been proposed “five or six times since 2005” and have never gotten out of committee. Each year, Mr. LaValle has asked the towns covered by the proposal to make a formal “home rule” request to the State Legislature, which is required before any action can be taken in Albany.

Mr. Brown was absent last year when the Town Board voted 3-0, the supervisor said, to support both home rule requests. Mr. Dougherty noted that Mr. Brown had made it clear he would have voted “no.”

The board informally agreed to schedule a formal vote on the LaValle request’s at this Friday’s formal Town Board meeting.