A new vehicle on the roads of East Hampton this season is causing rubbernecking and gawking galore. It’s not a classic Rolls-Royce, a stretch Hummer, or any other gas-guzzling dinosaur. It’s Hamptons Free Ride, the colorful, eco-friendly shuttle ferrying people to and from Main Beach seven days a week, and it’s, as the name implies, free.
The brain child of Alex Esposito and Jimmy Mirras, two East Hampton natives, Free Ride’s electrically powered shuttles are golf carts on steroids, with three rows of seats and multihued advertisements covering their outsides.
“The idea has been bounced around for a while, because there is a parking problem at the beaches,” said Mr. Esposito. “We mulled over making it for-hire, but it’s great to give something away to sell something.”
Starbucks does it with wireless Internet, Mr. Esposito explained. “People are more attracted to things that are free, and advertisers are attracted to the people. It works out for everyone,” he said. Besides the banners on the vehicles, there are also TV monitors running ads in the carts, along with brochure holders for local businesses.
People get a free ride, energy and gas is saved, and advertisers have an audience. It is, according to the Hamptons Free Ride Web site, “a win, win, win scenario.”
Before beginning its route from Main Street to Main Beach, the business needed approvals from the village board and police. But everyone, said the duo, was enthusiastically supportive from the start.
Hamptons Free Ride has a fleet of three electric carts, with two on the roads during business hours, which are “9-ish to 6-ish,” according to a recent Tweet. Kyle White and Lex King are the full-time drivers, with carts that make the loop every 15 minutes, all week, and can cruise the roads for a couple of hours before needing a battery charge.
The Web site has a map of the route, which takes a turn up Main Street and Newtown Lane before entering the Lumber Lane long-term parking lot by the Y.M.C.A East Hampton RECenter, and then circling through the Reutershan parking lot on Park Place before heading back to the beach. This way, Mr. Mirras explained to the East Hampton Village Board in April, people who are parked at the beach can leave their cars and get lunch, and people who want to go to the beach can use the back parking lot in East Hampton Village rather than endlessly circling the lot at Main Beach, waiting for a space.
Taking a look back at the first few weeks, Mr. Mirras said he “knew the demand would be there.” It was, and the company is already looking at putting a few more carts on the road.
“We’ve been approached by other towns,” said Mr. Mirras, who sees a “big picture” of Free Rides saving energy and preventing blisters at resort towns up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
“It’s going really well,” Jimmy Mirras said. The company is working to get charging stations in the parking lot, and to open additional routes in Amagansett and Montauk.