Greenport to Sag Harbor ferry service begins

The $20 round-trip fare buys travelers a trip

The $20 round-trip fare buys travelers a trip between Greenport and Sag Harbor on the Peconic Jitney this summer. (June 27, 2012) (Credit: Randee Daddona)

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Geri and Larry Savery of Smithtown said they were in the right place at the right time.

The Saverys were visiting Greenport Thursday when they heard about a new, experimental ferry service to Sag Harbor. "We just saw it and said 'Let's try it,' " Geri said. "Just the view is breathtaking."

The view from atop the bright yellow and black shuttle, most passengers said, was the best part. "The view alone is worth the $20" round-trip fare, Larry Savery said.

They were among a handful of travelers on the ride between Long Island's north and south forks Thursday afternoon. Some were couples spending quiet time together. Others were on their day off, in search of antiquing, shopping, or drinking. Most said the roughly 40-minute ride around Shelter Island beat driving.

"It's at least an hour and a half to go around [Route] 25 to go to the end," said Jime Rodríguez, who was there with his wife, Adelma, and dog Bacci. "And in traffic, it's murder."

The couple, who manage an estate in Southampton, sat on the top deck while the breeze blew by.

"At least here you can enjoy the water," Jime Rodríguez said, before adding, "and for the pet it's free."

The first new ferry service on Long Island in a decade came fully packed with hopes that it was the harbinger of a bright future for mass transit on the East End.

The ferry operators say the ferry is an experiment, scheduled to end around Labor Day, and the data collected by counting passengers and asking some of them about their travel plans will show if it is economically feasible to try to run the ferry next year.

"It's the unknown," said Jim Ryan, the owner of Response Marine in Mattituck, who along with Geoffrey Lynch, chief operating officer of Hampton Jitney, are running the ferry service. The ferry -- Peconic Jitney is written on its side -- can carry 53 passengers on each of its seven daily round trips, eight on weekends. Operators expect to average about 100-150 passengers a day, at least until word about the new service spreads.

Ryan proposed running the ferry last year but met strong opposition from Sag Harbor business owners who feared the loss of parking space to visitors who would simply come to the village, leave their car, and sail away.

That problem was mitigated when Ryan and Lynch partnered to run the ferry and arranged for passengers to make reservations with the Hampton Jitney and leave their cars in parking lots the company is leasing from public schools in Greenport and Sag Harbor. A bus takes passengers to the docks.

"We needed upland support," Ryan said.

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