Shuttle Service to Return to Montauk

The Hampton Hopper has renewed a contract with the Town of East Hampton to provide free bus service in parts of Montauk this summer. Durell Godfrey

The Hampton Hopper, the free shuttle bus that served more than 20,000 riders in Montauk last summer, will return this summer to move visitors and residents around the hamlet. But business owners and workers in one part of town are feeling left out and, with the tourist season approaching, are seeking a remedy. 

At its meeting last Thursday, the East Hampton Town Board authorized a $150,000 expenditure to engage Hampton Hopper to provide the free service in Montauk, where the company’s green, converted school buses stop at least twice per hour at 10 locations on a loop stretching between the campground at Hither Hills State Park and Gosman’s Dock. Buses can be flagged at additional designated locations. The town is allocating $50,000 for the service, with a state grant providing the rest. 

At the board’s work session at the Montauk Firehouse on Tuesday, Laurie Cancielleri of Rick’s Crabby Cowboy Cafe, near the end of East Lake Drive, and Laraine Creegan, executive director of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, complained that the Hopper’s route does not include East Lake Drive, home to several hotels, restaurants, guest houses, and a marina, as well as Gin Beach, a popular family beach at the road’s end, across the harbor from Gosman’s. 

“We are local businesses, taxpayers,” Ms. Cancielleri said. “We understand it’s a job to include us, but there must be a solution because we are part of the town.” East Lake Drive’s relative remoteness, she said, makes it difficult to access without a vehicle, and it is hazardous for cyclists because it has neither a shoulder nor bicycle lane. “We don’t need tons and tons of trips,” she said of a bus service, “but we do need some.” 

The board explored adding East Lake Drive to the route, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc told Ms. Cancielleri, but servicing the road would add more than $30,000 to the cost, while maintaining the same routes as last year is already costing $50,000 more than in 2017. “We would like to keep the service free,” he said, wondering aloud if more money would be available in 2019, or if other funding sources exist. “I would love to see that service expand, but we have to be conscious of budgetary constraints.” 

“But we’re the only area not served,” Ms. Cancielleri said of those on the east side of Lake Montauk. “It’s a $20 taxi to get to us. People would like to use the east side of the harbor. In my view, we’re not $30,000 too much. . . . We are town businesspeople, and we’re not being served. We need it the most.” 

Ms. Creegan suggested that advertising on some of the buses could finance an additional bus allowing East Lake Drive to be serviced, and that members of the chamber might be eager to advertise. “It is upsetting that you’re closing half the lake” to public transportation access, she said. 

The board hopes to expand the service throughout the town, Mr. Van Scoyoc said, as its existence eliminates other vehicles from the roadways and parking spaces, but Montauk at present is the only hamlet enjoying the free service. “Montauk has something no other hamlet has now,” he said. The Hopper does not serve all of Montauk, “but we’re not serving all of the town yet, either.” 

Ms. Creegan again suggested advertising on the buses. “Call me,” she said. “You have my number.”