No train, no gain

“Taxation without transportation” — that’s what Legislator Romaine (center) called the MTA’s taxes and fees in light of announced service cuts to the East End. Supporting a call to secede from the MTA district if LIRR service stops were (from left) State Assemblyman Marc Alessi, Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio; United Transportation Union General Chairman Anthony Simon; Frank Beyrodt from the Long Island Farm Bureau; and Riverhead Councilmen Jim Wooten and John Dunleavy.

Local elected officials are calling on the MetropolitanTransportation Authority to reconsider its proposal to eliminaterail service between Ronkonkoma and Greenport.

If not, they said, the MTA will face the possibility that EastEnd towns will secede from the transportation agency.

“It’s absolutely wrong, New York State Assemblyman Marc Alessisaid of the MTA’s proposal during a Monday morning press conferenceat the Riverhead train station.

About 50 people stood outside the station in the rain to protestthe proposal, which would affect about 200 commuters daily.

The MTA wants to eliminate all Long Island Rail Road servicebetween the Ronkonkoma and Greenport stations, with the exceptionof summer weekends, by September. The move, part of an effort toclose the agency’s $400 million budget shortfall, would save theMTA about $991,000 a year.

Four eastbound and four westbound trains would be eliminatedMonday through Friday and two eastbound and two westbound would beeliminated on weekends, leaving North Fork riders with noalternative rail service.

Mr. Alessi and county Legislator Ed Romaine vowed to fight theproposed change, explaining that the East End’s local businesseswere hit hard last year, when the state approved a payroll tax onall businesses, government agencies and schools in an effort toclose the MTA’s original $1.2 billion budget gap.

“It’s taxation without transportation, Mr. Romaine said.

Eight public hearings will be scheduled to discuss the proposalin March, although none will be held locally. The hearings willtake place in White Plains, the Bronx, Carle Place, Brooklyn,Flushing, Manhattan, Suffern and Staten Island, officials said.

Mr. Romaine and Mr. Alessi said that if the MTA decides toeliminate rail service east of Ronkonkoma, then the East End shouldinvestigate seceding from the MTA and establishing its owntransportation authority.

“It’s time to put up or get out of the way, Mr. Alessi said.

A coalition from the East End’s five towns have been researchinga separate transportation authority for the Peconic region foryears. South Fork Assemblyman Fred Thiele, a member of the AssemblyTransportation Committee, has introduced a bill that would createthe Peconic Bay Transportation Authority. Of the MTA announcement,he said, “¹”Pay more, get less’ is apparently the newmotto of the MTA. … Instead, the MTA should be looking at ways toincrease revenues and ridership.

The MTA announcement did not include major reductions in serviceto the South Fork.

“The only way we will ever get cost effective mass transit andend our role in subsidizing the New York city transit system is bybreaking away, Mr. Thiele said.