Stony Brook students are truly blessed to have a commuter rail station sitting on the periphery of campus — the Stony Brook LIRR station can accommodate full-length trains and shuttle countless students between their homes in New York City, Long Island, and even to a few students who switch to the NJ Transit and beyond. The LIRR does so much good to help make accessing Stony Brook very convenient and nearly chore-free... until it sometimes does become a chore.
Let me first say that I am in no way taking the MTA for granted here — not that many schools, especially suburban ones, have easy access to public transportation. However, if the MTA is going to provide a service for us, it should optimize it significantly in order for more people to utilize it.
Firstly, thousands of students use the train to commute from their homes when they have no access to a car, with some going back even as far as Jamaica, which is just insane. Even if it doesn't make sense to commute 30-50 miles in one direction, it is still the only option some students can use to attend classes at this amazing university. Therefore, service to Port Jefferson should be increased to increase the frequency of the trains. You would not believe just how many students commute every week — the 4:18 train especially is super crowded since it is one of the few that runs all the way to Jamaica. Increasing service will drastically reduce the number of people that are crowded into a single train.
In order to increase service, plans must be undertaken to double-track and electrify the entire Port Jefferson line, not just up to Huntington. It is understandable that setting up electrifying stations and installing third rails next to each track can be quite cumbersome and expensive, but it is a necessity. Electric trains are faster, quieter, and don't produce fumes when idling. Diesel trains, on the other hand, are not environmentally sustainable, slow, and tend to idle quite a lot. They are convenient to use when electrification ends, but that does NOT outweigh electrifying the tracks. The M7 and M3 trains that use the line, as well as the brand-new M9 trainsets, will be of longer lengths and can serve more customers. There are also many more of them than diesel locomotives. Hell, if we can electrify all the way to Ronkonkoma, then why can't we electrify to Port Jefferson?
The line east of Huntington is also single-tracked, which also reduces service. The reason trains in each direction come every one and a half hours is because they have to share a single track with trains going in the opposite direction. Many trains have to wait at sidings, delaying them significantly. Service can become far more reliable and frequent when the trains don't have to wait for another train to pass before they themselves can proceed. Even though we have direct transit access from Stony Brook to NYC, the commute takes two hours, one and a half on a good day, because the damn diesel trains keep waiting at sidings for too long! The 6:49 train Westbound stops and idles at Smithtown for 20 minutes!
If the MTA can invest some more money into further enhancing the Port Jefferson line, it will make the lives of thousands of students easier, not to mention introducing a more environmentally friendly and sustainable solution. These thousands of students will be even more grateful and more students might use the train more often, letting the LIRR rake in even more money. I really hope this goes into effect soon, so more people living along the corridor, not just students, can benefit and thrive off of public transit.