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Letter: North-south LI transit exists now

LIRR conductor checks a platform at Jamaica station

LIRR conductor checks a platform at Jamaica station as a commuter tries to board on July 8, 2014. On that date, most LIRR unions had settled their contracts, but the engineers contract was still being negotiated. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Relative to the $78 million rapid bus plan envisioned by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, I would argue that something like the north-south transit service he seeks already exists and is available almost free of additional taxpayer cost ["Rapid-bus plan backed," News, July 31].

The key lies in whether the Long Island Rail Road is willing to modify its New York City-based travel orientation to one that attempts to facilitate north-south travel in Nassau and Suffolk.

Between Hicksville and Babylon, two of the LIRR's busiest stations, there is a little-known stretch of rail called the Central branch. This 10 miles of non-electrified, single track provides critical flexibility for the LIRR in routing some Montauk branch trains via the Main Line. Yet virtually none of these trains has a scheduled stop at either Hicksville or Babylon. If they did, it would enable passengers to transfer from one of the LIRR's branches to another. Such transfers are available in most European rail systems.

Were the LIRR to stop all of its trains at both Hicksville and Babylon -- and perhaps even add "scoot" diesel service between these points -- the intra-county connectivity between communities and activity centers on the Port Jefferson, Ronkonkoma and Babylon-Montauk branches could be accomplished. It would eliminate the lengthier, time-consuming and more expensive transfers via Jamaica. And even though it might appear to be roundabout, travel by rail connection may be a lot speedier than navigating a north-south bus link through Long Island traffic.

Mike Licitra, Deer Park

Editor's note: The writer is a retired transportation planner supervisor for Nassau County.