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Apr 3, 2018 9:44 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Free Montauk Shuttle Buses Will Return For Summer

The Hopper will return to Montauk this summer with free shuttle rides around the hamlet thanks to $100,000 in funding from New York State and $50,000 from East Hampton Town.
Apr 3, 2018 12:49 PM

A free shuttle bus again will circulate through the hamlet of Montauk this coming summer after state lawmakers approved a $100,000 grant to East Hampton Town to help fund the service.

The company that ran the bus last summer, Hampton Hopper, has said the program will cost $150,000 this year, based on its costs last year. East Hampton Town officials say they are prepared to cover the difference to ensure the shuttles are up and running, and free for riders, by July 4 weekend.

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. announced on Monday that the State Legislature had approved a budget that included the $100,000 for the Montauk shuttle as part of a larger funding package for a planned broader commuter shuttle program using trains and buses throughout the South Fork in 2019.

The Montauk shuttle gave more than 20,000 rides last summer, about 300 a day for the two months it operated. The company agreed to provide the service for the $100,000 the town got from the state last year, as a pilot program that its owners hoped would be the start of a profitable future venture.

After the summer ended, the Hopper’s owners told the town the program cost them about $50,000 more than the contract with the town paid them, after sales of advertising on the buses fell well short of their hoped-for projections.

Last fall, the town put out a request for bids to run the 2018 shuttle and received two bids, from the Hopper and the Hampton Jitney. A transportation advisory committee recommended that the town accept the Hopper’s proposal. The Town Board has not yet voted to accept the bid, but Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said he expects the board to do so soon.

“With over 20,000 riders last season, providing this free, reliable shuttle service reduces vehicle trips on our roads and eases parking pressure,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said in a message on Tuesday.

The shuttles again will run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and loop from downtown Montauk to the harbor and up Old Montauk Highway to Hither Hills State Park and back. Last year, the Hopper ran two buses along the 15-mile loop, which made 10 scheduled stops about every 30 minutes, but also allowed riders—who could track the buses on a mobile phone app—to hail the bus from the roadside.

If all goes according to plan, the service will start on June 28 and run through Labor Day, September 3.

Last year’s Montauk bus grant was the first effort by state lawmakers to seed a commuter shuttle program throughout the Hamptons. This year’s budget includes $500,000 for that effort, known as the South Fork Commuter Connection, which will link more frequent Long Island Rail Road trains running between Speonk and Montauk during rush hour with shuttle buses circulating through the major hamlets in both Southampton and East Hampton towns.

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