Commuter Help on the South Fork Is Near

Hampton Hopper proposed for ‘last mile’ shuttle bus
Local shuttle buses will pick up commuters at Long Island Rail Road stations and take them to places of employment. Durell Godfrey

Expanded weekday Long Island Rail Road service is set to launch on March 4, and now the Town of East Hampton is choosing which provider to use for the “last mile” shuttle bus service that is to take riders to and from train stations and places of employment. 

The Hampton Hopper, which has operated an app-based shuttle network using converted school buses since 2014, was recommended by a committee put together to evaluate respondents seeking to provide that service, Jeanne Carroza, the town’s senior purchasing agent, told the town board at its work session on Tuesday. 

Five reputable companies had responded to the request for proposals, issued in September in cooperation with the Town of Southampton, and the committee selected four to be interviewed. 

The board has not finalized its selection of the provider, but Ms. Carroza said that should the Hampton Hopper be chosen, it would cover routes using two 25-passenger buses. Exact routes are to be determined and subject to modification based on ridership.

The L.I.R.R.’s additional morning and afternoon trains will operate for a total of 260 days during the 13 months from March of this year through March of 2020. A $500,000 grant from New York State is to be split evenly between East Hampton and Southampton, each town independently choosing and contracting with a shuttle provider. The $1-per-ticket revenue will also be split between the towns. 

Shuttle service is to be divided into seven units to meet trains arriving at the East Hampton, Amagansett, and Montauk stations and cover routes to places where people work, including in Springs. 

One unit will meet trains arriving in East Hampton at 7:03 and 9 a.m.; another will return passengers to the station for westbound trains departing at 3:12 and 5:14 p.m. A shuttle will also take arrivals on the 7:03 a.m. train in East Hampton, where it will terminate, to Montauk. Another will meet passengers at the train arriving in Montauk at 9:05 a.m. Still another will return passengers to the Montauk station at 2:48 and 4:50 p.m. 

Units will collect passengers from the train arriving at 9:05 a.m. in Amagansett, and return them there for trains leaving the hamlet at 3:07 and 5:09 p.m.  

It is hoped that “ridership finds it convenient and efficient,” Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said, so that the service is widely used. “We know as a municipality, hearing from a number of businesspeople, it’s becoming more difficult to hire and retain workers, given long commute times on the highway. This is one way in which we can overcome some of that by creating a more efficient way” to get to and from work. 

A successful program would remove vehicles from the roads, alleviating “trade parade” traffic heading east in the mornings and west in the afternoons, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. “While we’re not certain how many will immediately take advantage” of the service, Mr. Van Scoyoc said, “we have a good proposal.” 

Ultimately, he said, “a dedicated light rail shuttle running back and forth between Speonk and Hampton Bays and Montauk could alleviate a great deal of traffic.” The service that will begin in March is “not a perfect solution,” but “we need to make the best of what’s being offered.”