A new shuttle service will be driving into downtown Huntington this month.
Qwik Ride, a free app-based ride sharing service aimed at easing the parking crunch in the downtown area is set to launch, service co-founder Dan Cantelmo said.
The idea is to encourage visitors to the town’s busy downtown and shop or restaurant employees to park in outlying lots, catch a free ride via Qwik Ride into the center of town, and then catch a return ride to their car or to another business by hailing a passing shuttle or using the app to call one.
“There are underutilized lots a little further from the village and the theory is to park in those lots and catch a Qwik Ride into town,” Cantelmo said.
Supporters of the business are hoping the idea not only catches on with locals but will steer visiting boaters from Connecticut to dine in the downtown by using the service.
Cantelmo, 30, said he has ordered five heated, six-person electric vehicles for Huntington and they should be on the road by the end of the month. The shuttles will be running until last call and later to take closing employees back to their cars, he said.
“It’s a fun way to navigate the village,” Dom Catoggio, co-owner of The Paramount Theater, said. “It’s convenient, it’s fun, practical but also a bit of an adventure.”
Cantelmo and his childhood friend John Yancigay, 31, co-founded the service and app this year, launching it in Patchogue in May. They said they are hoping the success they saw in Patchogue will be repeated in Huntington. They make money by sponsorships and advertising on the shuttles.
Cantelmo and Yancigay also run Late Night Chauffeur, a driver service that will drive customers and their cars home after a late night out.
Finding parking in downtown Huntington has been a challenge for years.
In 2012 the Huntington Village Consortium formed to look at the problem and figure out a permanent parking solution. The group is composed of representatives from the Town of Huntington, its Economic Development Corporation, the Huntington Village Business Improvement District Association, The Paramount Theater and the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce.
Town officials have commissioned two studies to look at the feasibility of building a parking structure. The Huntington Local Development Corp. last year was awarded a $1.7 million grant from the state Regional Economic Council for construction of a new public parking garage.
Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci likes the idea of the shuttle and said the town will help get the word out about the service.
“The town’s on board because it will help with the parking scarcity during peak times, especially on weekends and night events,” Lupinacci said. “It’s one of the many things we’re trying to tackle the parking problems.”
Jack Palladino, president of the Huntington Village Business Improvement District, estimated there are as many as 700 people working in downtown retail shops, offices and restaurants at any one time. He said he will encourage employees to use the shuttle.
“Once things are ironed out ... I think everyone will want to use the service,” Palladino said.