Montauk Bus Has Promise

Here’s hoping that the free shuttle bus set to begin in Montauk next week with $100,000 in state funding finds enough riders to justify its operation. Acting on concerns about traffic and complaints about fare gouging by some taxi drivers, East Hampton officials have announced that the Hampton Hopper will operate a route that includes stops at the Montauk railroad station, the docks, Hither Hills State Park, and the downtown business area.

Whether the buses will reduce traffic congestion in any meaningful way, as hoped, is unknown, but that is not the sole measure by which its success should be assessed. Providing a dependable, safe way for visitors or people without cars to get around will be good for all of us. Consider that vehicle emissions are among the largest sources of greenhouse gases and that Montauk is at the forefront locally of challenges from erosion exacerbated by sea level rise. Anything that cuts the use of cars even a little is a net positive.

What would make the bus experiment even better would be if it were operated with low-emission or electric vehicles. Already, there are plans to link its route to that of Hamptons Free Ride, whose small all-electric fleet reaches points not on the Hopper’s planned loop. Also worth thinking about is whether its planned 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. schedule is too focused on visitors and ignores those who might otherwise want to use the bus to get to their jobs in the morning.

If the nascent service is carefully managed and quickly adapts to ridership patterns as they emerge, it looks like it will be a winner.