A second fare hike in less than a year did not deter thousands of Suffolk County Transit bus riders from taking advantage of Sunday service on two East End lines.
Suffolk Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) said ridership held steady in the second year of a pilot program to offer summerlong Sunday service on the 10C, which goes from East Hampton to Montauk, and the S92 from Riverhead to Greenport.
In 2011, 5,861 people rode buses on Sundays and holidays during the two months the service was offered. During the same period this year, 5,973 people took advantage of the special service.
The program was extended by about six weeks this year. In total, 8,674 people rode the S92 and 10C on Sundays and holidays from May 27 until Sept. 3, Schneiderman's office said.
Sunday ridership increased slightly despite a 25-cent fare hike on those lines in May that brought the cost of a trip to $2.25. Suffolk had already raised fares on those lines in July 2011 by 50 cents to cover the cost of the increased service.
Schneiderman, who heads Suffolk's transportation committee, said ridership "might have grown even more" were it not for the fare hike. Still, Schneiderman said some buses on the S92 and 10C carried more riders on Sundays than they do on some weekdays.
"It's still so much cheaper than other alternatives, like taxis," said Schneiderman, who added that he believes the Sunday bus service helped boost the East End economy over the summer.
Montauk Chamber of Commerce president Paul Monte said he's witnessed the popularity of the Sunday bus service first hand. Monte, chief executive of Gurney's Inn Resort Spa and Conference Center, said his employees have used the buses to get to and from work and to shop on their days off.
"Most of the staff that comes to work out here for the summer don't have vehicles and have to depend on taxis, friends, hitchhiking or bicycling," said Monte, who called the added bus service "very helpful."
"I think the more the word gets out, the more it will be utilized," he added.
Schneiderman said he'd still like to see the county expand Sunday service to other lines, but acknowledged it would be a tough sell as Suffolk faces a projected $200 million deficit next year.
Suffolk County Transit has an annual budget of about $57 million.
Ryan Lynch, associate director of the nonprofit Tri State Transportation Campaign, which advocates for bus riders, said Suffolk should move toward the goal of systemwide, yearlong Sunday service and urged state lawmakers to fight for increased aid to make it happen.
"The demand is there," Lynch said.
"It's not a dramatic step. It's a very big step, but it's realistic."