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Jul 22, 2014 3:34 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hampton Hopper Rolls Out Across East End

Jul 29, 2014 12:41 PM

The sea-green Hampton Hopper is here for both local and seasonal crowds to hop.A couple of converted school buses touted as the “latest and greatest” form of transportation to hit the Hamptons have already begun hopping between and through Sag Harbor, East Hampton, Amagansett, and Montauk. With the absurd Hamptons traffic making it almost impossible to move in any direction, the green buses may keep some cars off the road while adding a measure of safety and a splash of color.

The Hopper’s founder, Derek Kleinow, explained that the idea of the Hampton Hopper has been spinning around in his head for some time.

“I guess I was waiting and hoping someone would come up with something,” but no one did, he said, adding, “I think I have what it takes to make this happen.” He made it happen—the Hampton Hopper even has an advisory board and people investing in its success.

Mr. Kleinow explained that the difficulty in traveling on the East End to see the different villages was the main reason for implementing his idea this summer, along with a real need to minimize people’s worries about drinking and driving so they can enjoy a drink with dinner, and perhaps a ride to a bar afterward.

The first bus was rolling on June 20. Since then, the goal has been to test the waters—or roads—this summer, in terms of demand. So far, the response has been positive.

One of the first riders, Joya Cohen from the East Village in New York City, said she loves the Hopper because “it provides a reliable and fun way to get around out east without a car—connecting the different Hamptons villages in a way that was not previously available.”

Mr. Kleinow said what still needs to be accomplished, though, is “finding the technology and putting buses on the road.”

What makes Hampton Hopper unique is its iPhone app. Summer traffic makes it difficult to adhere to a set schedule, and the county bus is often late, Mr. Kleinow said, and so his company asked, “Is there a way we can use technology to address this issue?”

To that end, they came up with an application that tracks the Hopper’s current location on a map, telling riders when it will arrive at each stop. “If you have the app, you can just open it up and see how much time you need,” Mr. Kleinow said.

“There are so many local school bus drivers out here who look for work in the summer,” he added, noting that many “have a lot of extra time on their hands, and we can benefit from hiring great people and local people who know the area.” Mr. Kleinow reached out to the Southampton, Riverhead, and Hampton Bays school districts to get in touch with local drivers. “We have great and awesome bus drivers,” he said.

So far, he said the Hampton Hopper has catered more to the locals’ tastes. “We have had more of a local crowd right out of the gate, and it’s because the local people have wanted something like this,” Mr. Kleinow said. A first day of unlimited rides comes free if you download the app; after that, a daily pass costs $20, while single-ride tickets cost $12.

Mr. Kleinow and his team have done a lot in just a few short months to get the Hampton Hopper on the road. “I didn’t actually decide to do it until January 1—I only had six months to pull it together, so that was very stressful,” Mr. Kleinow said.

In that time, he said, the company has joined all of the villages’ and hamlets’ chambers of commerce, and local businesses have helped to promote and support it. “Restaurants, bars, and hotels love it for their customers to get to and from their establishments,” he said.

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