East Hampton Town officials have said they hope to implement a shuttle bus service in the hamlet of Montauk during the summer months.
Details concerning when and where the service would operate, and how it would be paid for, are yet to be determined. Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) and state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) secured $100,000 for the project when the state budget was passed last month.
Brookhaven-based L.K. McLean Associates PC, a consultant firm hired by the town, is assisting in the planning phase of the project, Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said.
“Our goal is to establish a shuttle bus system that would run from downtown Montauk, to the dock area, to the train station . . . on a close enough schedule where it’s going to be convenient for people to use,” Cantwell said. “There’s no point in having a bus if you have to wait forever for it.”
As Montauk’s summer popularity has swelled, so has the hamlet’s traffic. East Hampton officials have tried to ease tie-ups by eliminating parking spots that blocked roadways and by passing taxi licensing regulations to help limit the number of cabs in the streets.
They have also been working with other East End officials to reinstitute the South Fork Commuter Shuttle, an LIRR line that would run locally between Speonk and Montauk four times a day.
Thiele has said the project could start running in early 2018, but Southampton and East Hampton Town officials would have to create their own transit services between LIRR stations and employment centers.
The shuttle bus proposal was developed in coordination with the Citizens Advisory Committee and Chamber of Commerce in Montauk. Heavy traffic and a lack of parking have been recurring issues for the hamlet during the summer months, said Laraine Creegan, executive director of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce.
“When you go from 3,000 residents to closer to 20- to 25,000 residents in the summertime, you really need to improve your infrastructure,” Creegan said. “We’ve been talking about improving services to and around Montauk for years. This, finally, has been developed into something we think is going to happen this year.”
Some Montauk residents say affordable housing is the more pressing issue. Leo Daunt, an employee at the family-owned Daunt’s Albatross Motel, said that young people are leaving the hamlet because of the high cost of living compared with wages.
“The only reason I can stay here is because my family owns this hotel. . . . There’s no year-round employment,” Daunt said. “You got to pay a million dollars for a house if you want to find a place to stay. How is someone who’s 21 supposed to do that?”
Many people who work in Montauk during the summer commute from communities with cheaper housing, which can take hours. Early-morning traffic on Montauk Highway from Southampton east to Montauk has grown far worse in recent years.
Nadia Ovalles, head chef at The Saltbox restaurant in Montauk, said that even full-time employees are affected by infrequent bus service.
“They have to get up at 6 a.m. to make it here at 11:30 a.m.,” Ovalles said. “If you don’t have a car, or if you miss the bus, you’re going to be stuck in Montauk.”
A representative for Cantwell said the request for proposal for the shuttle service, containing additional information on the project, will be available in the next week.
East Hampton Deputy Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, who serves as a liaison to the Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee, was not available for comment.
With Rachelle Blidner