Kicking off the summer season, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Wednesday called on local residents to not only vacation in Suffolk, but make the county’s revitalized downtowns their prime destinations along with beaches and vineyards.
Despite cutbacks in countywide bus service, Bellone also announced tourism-oriented expansion of Suffolk’s bus service between the Babylon Long Island Rail Road station and Robert Moses State Park, and extension of the S47 route from downtown Montauk to the Montauk lighthouse.
Bellone made his pitch to “Stay Suffolk” at a news conference at the Oar Grille in Patchogue. He said the local tourism industry brings in $5.5 billion in revenue and $365 million in state and local taxes.
Bellone said the county’s downtowns, from Amityville to Greenport and dozens of places in between, are the kinds of “places that people go around the world to visit. And we have them here right in our own backyard.”
The new bus service will extend the S-47 route from the Babylon train station to Robert Moses State Park from June 19 to Sept. 4 from 8:45 a.m. to 6:55 p.m. on weekdays every hour, and from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends and holidays.
The summer bus service to the Montauk lighthouse will run from July 5 to Sept. 2, by extending the existing S-94 route from downtown Montauk village. The new service will run from 10:05 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. every 60 minutes.
In addition, officials said the county parks department will provide a free shuttle service for campers at Smith Point County Park from the camping area on the east side of the park to the main pavilion so campers can have easy access to the beachfront staffed with lifeguards. Park officials say they are using a former county bus with 450,000 miles on it that was refurbished and painted in-house.
Bellone could not say at the news conference how much the new bus services would cost or whether there was money in the 2017 budget for the services. But he said the new services are expected to bring in new revenue to cover costs, although he had no projection of the number of riders the routes might attract.
Bellone last year cut eight county bus routes to save $4 million. He said state aid formulas shortchange Suffolk because the county is geographically larger and more rural than areas such as Nassau.