As Riverhead Town’s plan to put an administrative office for the ambulance corps moves ahead, the county is working to comply with the town’s request to move the bus stop away from the railroad ticket office building.
The town is negotiating a license agreement with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Long Island Rail Road for use of the long-vacant building on Railroad Street.
Councilman John Dunleavy said he met today in Manhattan with LIRR senior vice president for operations Dave Kubicek.
“The MTA is approving it tomorrow,” the councilman said in a phone interview this evening. “It will take another six months to get it and set it up for the ambulance.”
The Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps will use the building as an administrative office and the town has asked the county to move the bus stop away from the building. The town wants to move benches on the south side of the building and erect fencing around the structure to secure access to it. Town officials initially asked the county to move the bus stop to the corner of Cedar and Railroad streets, but after discussion with public transportation advocate Vince Taldone, came up with an alternative: moving the bus stop to a point east of the building.
The town would also prohibit parking on at least part of the north side of the street to allow space for buses to pull over, Dunleavy said.
But the bus stop move comes with an annual operating cost increase of between $20,000 and $30,000, according to County Legislator Al Krupski.
The county pays its contract operators by the mile, Krupski explained. The bus stop move will slightly increase the mileage each for each of the bus routes that stop on Railroad Avenue. Buses will take Court Street to Griffing Avenue instead of Cedar Street, turn left on Griffing and then left again on Railroad. The new bus stop will be located on the north side of the street between Griffing and Cedar.
Krupski said about 70 buses per day stop at the Riverhead train station, which serves as a stop on four different Suffolk Transit bus lines.
He said the county should be able to find a way to shorten each route by the same distance being added because of the bus stop move so that there won’t be a net increase in operating costs.
“Out of a more than $70 million bus budget they should be able to squeeze $20,000 so that there won’t be a reduction in service,” Krupski said. “There’s got to be some inefficiency somewhere to give you that savings.”
But Taldone, who attended a meeting on the subject Friday morning at Riverhead Town Hall, with Dunleavy, Krupski, Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller, representatives of the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps, the Railroad Museum of Long Island, and Five Towns Rural Transit, said the plan is “seriously misguided and an affront to bus passengers like me.”
Fencing off the the station house “treats an ailment that the station does not have,” Taldone said.
“Passengers waiting for a bus or transferring from rail and bus are by and large on their way to work, school or other appointments. We — and I say we intentionally as a weekly rider on county buses and the LIRR — don’t ‘hang out’ at the station for hours and cause anyone trouble,” Taldone said.
“In fact, we are a benefit to security at the station, adding hundreds of people to the site each day. Eyes on the station house is the best solution to any security problem,” he said.
Taldone said he understands the desire to create a fenced, secured entry for ambulance corps staff.
“But if that move will cost taxpayers so much extra money while reducing amenities for bus passengers, that is no solution to the problem at all,” he said.
“I’d say that adding police foot patrols, lighting and security cameras will do a lot more to protect that staff and the station in general than pushing law-abiding bus passengers away,” Taldone said.
Taldone said Friday’s meeting was “pretty contentious.”
He said he was “the only bus passenger out of everyone at that table.”
Taldone faults officials for lumping bus passengers in with people who “hang out there drinking and smoking all day.” They are a small minority, he said.
“The station can be improved in so many ways without hurting bus passengers who work all across the East End and make our economy work,” Taldone said.
The whole area can be cleaned up, Taldone said. “It’s filthy.”
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