A passenger ferry to Sag Harbor has been talked about on and off for years, but now, in a joint venture involving a North Fork company and the Hampton Jitney, it may come to pass. Long Wharf could see passengers going to and from Greenport, and vice versa. There would be no service for cars on a 53-seat catamaran that the owner expects would make seven-day-a-week round trips as soon as Memorial Day weekend at a cost of $20 per person, $11 one way. If all goes well, Response Marine of Mattituck, which is seeking approval for the service, would hope to extend it to East Hampton and Montauk.
There are hurdles ahead for the ferry, especially in Sag Harbor. Its fate may well rest on how the Village of Sag Harbor decides to respond to an offer from Suffolk County that it take back control of Long Wharf. Mired in a financial crisis, the county is eager to be rid of the pier and its attendant maintenance costs. As much as $400,000 in upgrades and safety improvements are said to be needed immediately. Until this is resolved, the fate of the ferry run will be unknown.
On the positive side of the ledger, ferries can be part of a welcome alternative-transportation system. Planners have long made getting people out of cars a goal; this could be part of that. Although ferries of all sorts are banned in Sag Harbor now, the law could be repealed. This and a number of lesser issues are not insurmountable, however, if the public wants to jump aboard the idea.
On the negative side, though, is the matter of parking. To avoid a worst-case parking problem in Sag Harbor, Jitney buses or vans would bring riders from Bridgehampton and East Hampton, where they apparently would leave their cars. The would-be ferry operators are optimistic that passengers would not mind boarding buses to get to the ferry. If this surprises us, and the ferry turns out to be popular anyway, long-term parking elsewhere would have to be found. Parking anywhere near Long Wharf is subject to strict time limits, and is always hard to find in season, possibly resulting in cars lining surrounding residential streets, which calls for a prohibition.
Response Marine, which would run the waterborne part of the service, has said it would be willing to start the ferries on a trial basis this summer. This seems a fair way to test the popularity and the problems, but ferry operators must convince Sag Harbor officials and those in surrounding jurisdictions that adequate parking will be available. Doing so by Memorial Day would appear to be a tall order.