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Aug 1, 2017 5:00 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Montauk Bus Successful, But Return Engagement In Question

The Hopper, a free bus service looping Montauk, has done better than expected. KYRIL BROMLEY
Aug 1, 2017 5:58 PM

After a month of service, the municipally supported free bus system established in Montauk by East Hampton Town has exceeded the forecasts for ridership when the program began, officials say.

The Hopper, which is operated by Hampton Hopper under a $100,000 contract with the town, has averaged between 300 and 400 riders per day since it began making a 15-mile loop connecting Old Montauk Highway and Flamingo Road on June 27.

Town officials said they are hopeful the service will be able to return next summer, but that may be contingent on the town getting a renewal of the $100,000 grant it received from the state for this summer’s service.

“The first month was very successful,” Supervisor Larry Cantwell said on Monday. “We’ll be asking the state for funding again next year, and the board will have to evaluate how it wants to proceed next year. We did two months this year; should we do three months next year?”

The initial grant for the bus service was tied to a state plan to begin running commuter train service on the South Fork, which would then have to be paired with a bus loop service in each hamlet to ferry train riders to business districts and large employers, like schools. The train service was supposed to start in 2018, but Mr. Cantwell said the state is now saying it may be pushed back to 2019. Whether that would affect the availability of grants is not known.

Among the options the board will consider, depending on the state funding support it gets, will be whether to charge small fares for rides, to offset the costs of the service, Mr. Cantwell said. Hopper management told the Town Board in June that they forecast the free service operating at a loss, but that the company was willing to absorb the costs in hopes that if the service was successful it would someday be profitable for the company, from fares and advertising, in a broader application.

The town could also start soliciting advertising on the buses to offset the costs earlier in the season. An offer for several thousand dollars in advertising this summer was turned down for what town officials initially saw as a wrapping that was “too risqué”—which ultimately proved to be a stroke of luck in dodging an awkward conflict.

Shortly after the Hopper loop went into service, the company was approached by Tinder with an offer to wrap one of the buses entirely in an advertisement for the company ahead of its plans to host several weekends of parties at a Montauk house for members of its exclusive Tinder Select service. The Hopper’s owners brought the proposal to the town, which declined to accept the company’s money, several weeks before town code enforcement officers began issuing various violations to the company for the parties it threw in July.

“We didn’t think that was the right message for Montauk, or for any place, for that matter,” Mr. Cantwell said. “Fortunately, we had the good judgment to say no, or the bus would have been wrapped by Tinder—and we would have been busting Tinder.”

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Average 350 riders a day for 60 days for a cost of $100,000 is about $5 per ride. Pretty good deal all around. I doubt the train can match, but lets hope!
By Amagansett Voter (62), Amagansett on Aug 4, 17 11:42 AM
Yes the richest town in America needs to get the State to pay for its bus.
Shame on you.
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Aug 4, 17 4:28 PM
...and HB had to PAY for their "trolley" $5 a trip. You really can't make this stuff up.
By HB Proud (889), Hampton Bays on Aug 5, 17 7:29 PM