So you want a free ride to the beach. Well, it’s all about who you know. And, sometimes you need to know a county legislator, town officials, three private transportation companies, and a group of nonprofit volunteers.
After a trek through the snow at the beginning of March set off a chain of events throughout the South Fork, Pierson Middle-High School students are getting a shuttle from Sag Harbor to Sagg Main Beach via Hampton Hopper.
The first Sag Harbor Village-to-Sagg Main Beach shuttle will run on Tuesday, June 30. The shuttle will run in a continuous loop, departing from the Sag Harbor Cinema at 11:30 a.m. with the last run leaving Sagg Main Beach at 4:30 p.m.
“It’s a great thing when the community steps up like this,” said Benito Vila, a volunteer at Sag Harbor Speak Out and a member of Pierson PTSA. “You had the county, town and village people all participating.”
Vila is not exaggerating when he says it took the combined efforts of an array of community leaders.
Back on that snowy day in March, 25 Pierson students attended Speak Out at Bay Street Theater and spoke with a group of civic leaders about programs they’d like to see made available to them. One specific suggestion that might sound familiar to any parent of a teen—a ride to the beach.
County Legislator Jay Schneiderman took on the request and checked the county bus inventory to see if any equipment was available at auction. Ultimately, Schneiderman along with Debbie Skinner of The Youth Resource Center of Sag Harbor (YRC), concluded the cost of a bus would be too much for the YRC to acquire and run.
After that first attempt, the web of participants grew. Southampton Town Council member Bridget Fleming and Southampton Town Youth Services director Nancy Lynott connected Speak Out organizers to The Hampton Jitney and then to Hamptons Free Ride, the electric cart shuttle service that can be seen cruising around East Hampton and Southampton.
Neither company had the right equipment for the job. “They just didn’t have the right gear,” Vila said. The jitney wasn’t meant for the beach loop and as for the Free Ride, Vila said, “Those batteries can only go so far so fast. They’re mostly suited for villages.”
Despite these setbacks, both championed the idea and led volunteers to explore other options. “One guy knows another guy and that guy goes, ‘Hey, I’ve got a big green bus can you use that?’” Vila said.
It was The Free Ride co-founder Alex Esposito who provided the critical connection to Derek Kleinow, founder of the Hampton Hopper. “When our friends at The Hamptons Free Ride let us know that there was an opportunity to help out kids in the community, we jumped at the chance!” Kleinow said.
The app-based bus service was launched last year and operates on weekends on the South Fork. Its bright green school buses provide transportation between the villages, including stops at popular shopping spots, fitness studios and restaurants.
“I also grew up out here, and that’s what led me to start The Hampton Hopper, wanting to beat the traffic and be able to travel with friends,” Kleinow said. “This shuttle run is a good one for our service; we’re not usually operating mid-week and it allows us to do more for the community and its kids.”
The Hopper is sponsoring the first of the beach shuttle runs in the hopes that the company can find local sponsors moving forward to subsidize the shuttle for riders 18 and under, according to Kleinow. “If there is enough interest from the broader community, we hope to invite people of all ages to take advantage of the service for our regular pricing ($12 one-way, or $20 for a daily unlimited pass).”
The idea has been met with enthusiasm. “The response has been, ‘Wow this is awesome!’” For Vila, success would be getting 50 kids to go back and forth on the Hopper. “That would be great.”