“It’s going to be fun,” said Bob Batton of Nassau County, as he and his wife, Anne-Marie, waited for the Peconic Bay Water Jitney on Sag Harbor’s Long Wharf Monday morning. “When I read about the ferry, I couldn’t have been more excited,” he said, “driving around is a pain in the neck, especially in the summer.” The couple planned to board the 10 a.m. boat to go to Greenport for lunch and shopping.
When the boat arrived on the warm, sunny morning, a few dozen passengers disembarked smiling, mostly from the top deck, some with bicycles. A couple from Mystic, Conn., who had their own boat docked in Greenport, found out about the ferry service on Sunday night, and decided to spend the day in Sag Harbor, something they said they hadn’t done in 12 or 13 years.
Also on the wharf that morning was Bruce Tait, chairman of the Sag Harbor Village Harbor Committee, and Neil Slevin, chairman of the village planning board. The two are developing a questionnaire to get community feedback on the trial ferry service.
“I think it’s going well,” said Jim Ryan of Response Marine in Mattituck, who teamed up with Geoffrey Lynch, president of Hampton Jitney, to establish the new passenger ferry linking the North and South Fork. With an unadvertised “soft opening” last Thursday, Mr. Ryan saw an increase in passengers each day. By Sunday, over 400 passengers had ridden aboard the Peconic Bay Water Jitney, Mr. Lynch said. “The mornings have been slower,” Mr. Ryan said, “but we are trying to build up commuter traffic.” The company is discussing a commuter pass like the ones offered on the North and South Ferries to Shelter Island.
As Mr. Ryan chatted with Mr. Tait and Mr. Slevin, he explained that he tried out both the east and west routes around Shelter Island, and did not see much of a difference in time. Running at 17 knots to save fuel, he can easily keep a schedule with trips that take 45 minutes dock to dock. He will decide which route to take on each trip depending on tides and weather.
On Monday morning, two bicyclists, Kevin Murphy and his son, Michael, who had ridden all the way from Springs, arrived at Long Wharf a little late for the 10 a.m. ferry, but decided to spend time in Sag Harbor while waiting for the noon departure, then “knock around” Greenport for the afternoon.
Andrew Lynch, vice president of Hampton Jitney, said on Tuesday that everyone was “very surprised with the first few days.” Two days after launching the service, riders increased from a dozen to two or three dozen passengers per trip, an average of about 30 passengers per ride. There were also a couple of sold-out trips on the 53-passenger vessel over the weekend, he said, adding that the riders went in both directions, including Nassau County residents coming from Greenport and a commuter going from Sag Harbor to Boston via public transportation.
On the ferry’s Web site, peconicjitney.com, passengers are encouraged to use “public transportation such as the S92 bus route.” For customers who drive to Sag Harbor, the Jitney provides free parking in the Pierson High School lot on Jermain Avenue. An unobtrusive passenger van makes six loops Sunday through Thursday and seven on Friday and Saturday starting at 9:15 a.m. between the Lumber Lane parking lot in East Hampton and Long Wharf, with stops at the East Hampton train station and the Pierson Lot. It is free for Peconic Jitney passengers. On Monday, the driver of the van alerted those who were parked on Long Wharf that there was a three-hour parking limit and showed them the way to the satellite lot.
The current ferry schedule, for which reservations are encouraged via telephone or online, offers seven round trips daily from Sunday through Thursday, and eight on Fridays and Saturdays, leaving every two hours starting at 8 a.m. In Sag Harbor, the ferry picks up passengers at the far end of Long Wharf. In Greenport, it docks at Mitchell Park, near the carousel.
Tickets cost $11 one way and $20 round trip. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, children under 13 can travel for $6 one way or $11 round trip.
Details have not yet been worked out for a Bridgehampton loop.