Suffolk County Transit is on the verge of approving an extension of the 10B bus route all the way east to the Medical Center off of Pantigo Road in East Hampton, as well as adding a second bus to the route, while cutting back what it considers an underutilized portion of the 10C bus route in Montauk, and eliminating, entirely, the S94 line, which currently runs between downtown Montauk and the lighthouse.
This is being done, Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming explained at two public hearings last week, to shorten the time it takes for Springs residents to get to the medical center. She said that the Montauk service cuts were needed, because of the dire financial constraints of the Suffolk County Transit, to offset the increased mileage of the extended 10B route. However, it is the moving of the departure time of the first westbound 10C from Montauk from 7:05 to 6:25 that has early morning riders seeing red.
Geoffrey Lynch, president of Hampton Jitney, was also present for the meetings, which were held July 10 at the Montauk Public Library and July 11 at Town Hall in East Hampton. Hampton Jitney is the parent company of Twin Forks Transportation, the operator of the buses. Lynch said that there are more riders on the 10C on a daily basis, which is why the company assigns the largest bus to the 10C Montauk to East Hampton route.
The additional bus added to the 10B route will become available with the elimination of the S94, which Fleming said frequently carried less than 10 passengers a day. That means that both of the 2017 Arboc 20-seater buses in the company’s fleet will be on the 10B line. In the meantime, the larger 2010 Orion will continue to make the Montauk to East Hampton run, but it will no longer loop through Ditch Plains, and, to make up for the missing S94, will now make four trips daily, during the summer season, to the lighthouse.
One advocate for the change to the 10B was Dr. Gail Schonfeld of East End Pediatrics, located at 200 Pantigo Place, where the 10B will stop 16 times a day. “We took a survey amongst our patients about their needs, and transportation was one of them,” she said at the town hall meeting last week. The need, she said, is particularly acute in the Latino community. “We have had women walking from Newtown Lane [the furthest east the 10B currently stops] with newborns,” she said.
Fleming pointed out that the Stony Brook Southampton Hospital Emergency Center will soon rise on the ballfield behind the clinic. It will become the fourth employment magnet around the 10B stop, alongside the medical center, the town government offices, and the business building on Pantigo Place.
Darnell Tyson, deputy commissioner of transportation for the county, said at the public hearing in East Hampton that the important thing was “to get the service in there. We need to get it started,” he said. It is Tyson’s belief that with the vastly improved service on the 10B line, ridership and revenue will grow.
While there were advocates for the 10B, there were none for the 10C. Only one rider of the 10C, Richard Ward of Ditch Plains, spoke at the meeting in Montauk. He said he relies on the 10C’s Ditch run to get him to East Hampton two or three times a week. Now, during the winter months, he will have to walk west to West Lake Drive, the easternmost point the 10C will be servicing off-season on Montauk Highway. During the summer months, he will be able to flag down the bus as it makes one of its Montauk Point runs.
A reporter with The Independent rode the 10C Friday morning on its trip from Montauk to East Hampton and back. It currently leaves Montauk at 7:05, getting to East Hampton around 7:30, then leaves East Hampton at 7:50, heading back to Montauk. About 25 people took the ride from Montauk: another 25 the ride back. Almost all were workers and African American, Jamaican, or Latino.
“Dia” rides the bus daily to her job on Newtown Lane. “It cannot work,” she said about the earlier start time. “People have a set schedule already. 6:25 is so early. People have been using this for years. Why change it?”
“I get up at 6 AM to get the bus by 7 AM to get to work by 8 AM in Sag Harbor,” “Jerome” said. He connects at the East Hampton train station to the S92, which takes him to Sag Harbor. The S92 is not affected by these changes. “Five o’clock?” he said to himself. “Damn. It is going to be crazy. They don’t know how hard it is,” Jerome said.
“I now get up at 5 AM,” “Margaret” said. “Nobody who rides the bus was [at the meeting]. They don’t see anybody at the meeting, they say, ‘Okay. The bus leaves at 6:30.’ They just do what they want to do.”
Regarding the return trip, opposition to the changes in the early bus times was not quite as intense, but was palpable, nonetheless.
“Tanner” works in Montauk. “My parents work in East Hampton, so I have to take the bus to go to Montauk,” she said. She already waits for her job to begin for a couple of hours. Now, she will be waiting longer.
The public had five days to comment after the final public hearing. The hearing is now closed. The changes, if approved, will start on August 1.