The popular Hampton Hopper shuttle bus will not operate in Montauk this summer because of economic and social distancing concerns due to the coronavirus epidemic.
East Hampton Town officials said that the with the state’s economic situation in dire straits because of the epidemic, the town is unlikely the receive the $100,000 grant that has funded about two thirds of the costs of the free shuttle the last three summers.
Social distancing and sanitizing protocols would make operating the bus more complicated as well.
“It’s unfortunate but with the concerns about unrelated people being in enclosed spaces together, I think it’s a good time to take a break from it,” Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said of the Hopper program last week.
Mr. Van Scoyoc said he has spoken with State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who helped secure the funding for the program, but said it is unlikely to be available this year with the state budget likely facing a multi-billion-dollar deficit.
For the last three years, the shuttle buses ran a 15-mile route with stops at the Montauk Harbor area, the railroad station, downtown and stops along Old Montauk Highway to Hither Hills State Park campground.
The shuttle program began with only the state funding in 2017 when Hampton Hopper agreed to provide the service for the $100,000 amount. At the end of the season, the company said the free buses were popular with riders but ended up costing much more to operate than they had anticipated — an approximately $50,000 loss for the company that year.
In 2018 and 2019, East Hampton Town kicked in an additional $50,000 to supplement the state grant money so that the buses could remain free to riders.
Last summer the buses gave 22,632 rides, an average of 333 per day.
The epidemic has also halted the South Fork Commuter Connection, a state-funded pilot program intended to encourage the use commuters coming to the Hamptons from points west to use public transportation.