Hooray for the Peconic Water Jitney

Peconic Water Jitney
Peconic Water Jitney

It was the first weekend  in a long time that we were without the Hampton Jitney’s Peconic Bay Water Jitney. And we miss it. The passenger ferry from Sag Harbor to Greenport and back completed its final trips last Monday, and despite interest from the owners and the public, no announcement has been made about whether or not the service will return next year.

This 53-passenger low-wake catamaran-style vessel began running on a trial basis in late June and then extended its service an extra month after Labor Day due to a 30% increase in ridership during the month of August, according to a statement released at the beginning of September. The Sag Harbor Village Board had approved the ferry to run through October.

Peconic Bay Water
 Jitney provided a
relaxing 40-minute
trip for walk-on
passengers six
times per day from
both locations and seven times on weekends, beginning at 9 a.m. at Mitchell Park in Greenport and ending with a 9 p.m. ferry out of Long Wharf in Sag Harbor during the month of September. Service started at 7 a.m. and ended at 11 p.m. during the heat of the summer. The boat, which has a yellow hull with a line of black and white checkers, features a comfortable air-conditioned cabin equipped with a bathroom and an upper viewing deck where riders can enjoy the lovely bay vistas as they cruise around Shelter Island.

There has been no word yet on the ferry’s fate, but extending the schedule through September seems to bode well for the future of this endeavor. When they pitched the idea earlier in the year, Hampton Jitney President Geoff Lynch and his business partner Jim Ryan, principal of Response Marine in Mattituck, said the service was a pilot program, which could eventually extend to Montauk and Orient. Ryan also told The East Hampton Star last week that he would like to offer the ferry again, but hopefully earlier next year.

Additional passenger ferries and a comprehensive schedule could reduce traffic, though probably not significantly. More importantly, the boats open up the destination villages to more visitors, which could boost the local economies, especially in Greenport, a village that is full of life and an exciting downtown scene that too few Hamptonites bother to visit and enjoy. The Peconic Bay Water Jitney made the trip to Greenport or Sag Harbor that much more alluring with the prospect of an easy ride without the complication of multiple ferries, traffic and parking. The ferry operators also reported that some commuters used the ferry, as they had hoped when hatching the idea.

The Water Jitney has received almost exclusively positive reviews, and it has drawn passengers from all around, not just the two villages. Round-trip tickets are $20, significantly cheaper than having to buy round-trip tickets on both the North and South Ferries from Sag Harbor to Shelter Island and then Greenport, or vice versa, and the voyage is far more convenient if tourists only plan on staying within the destination villages. The only other option, besides chartering a private boat, is backtracking west and driving around to the North Fork or South Fork through Riverhead, which can feel very counterintuitive for those who live east of Water Mill and Cutchogue.

A repeat performance next year, hopefully with an extended schedule and perhaps year-round service in the future, would require approval from Suffolk County and the two villages, but it must also be financially sound for the operators of this business. Anyone who likes the idea and has considered trying the Peconic Water Jitney, but didn’t make it happen this year, would help keep the ferry afloat by hopping aboard if it returns in the spring or early summer of 2013. With increased ridership and a little luck, boats might eventually appear in Montauk and Orient.

Would you like to see the Peconic Bay Water Jitney return? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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