Tired of circling around Main Street to find a convenient parking space in downtown Sag Harbor? RoveLoop, a new, environmentally-friendly, short-distance shuttle serving the village, eliminates that problem. And for now, at least, thanks to a sponsorship agreement with Optimum, the East End’s cable service, passengers who use the app-based service get to ride for free.
RoveLoop is the brainchild of Gianpaolo De Felice and Jack Brinkley-Cook, who also run the Rove shuttle service between Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the East End.
But while that premium service uses Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans, RoveLoop relies on eco-friendly electric-powered Polaris Gem vehicles that can carry five passengers but are limited to a top speed of 25 mph.
“With the times what they are, it was important to be 100-percent sustainable and use electric vehicles,” said Mr. De Felice.
Anyone paying attention to the news this year, with wild fires and floods across the world, and a new climate report released this week by the United Nations painting a bleak future if humans don’t do something to curb their reliance on fossil fuels, gets his point.
RoveLoop is one piece of a puzzle Sag Harbor Village officials have been trying to solve for several years: how to relieve congestion and open up parking spaces in the center of the village. This summer, the village introduced a pilot program bringing paid parking to Long Wharf that, if adopted permanently, would help fund infrastructure improvements for things like better sidewalks and bicycle lanes. It also considered a proposal to bring in a bike-share service.
Mr. Brinkley-Cook said he and Mr. De Felice initially proposed a version of RoveLoop that would have created a limited taxi service for residents within a 2.5-mile radius of the village costing approximately $9 a ride for one to five passengers starting in the summer of 2020.
“The village had a congestion issue, a parking issue,” Mr. Brinkley-Cook said. “They were all ears for any sort of program that could aid in reducing those problems.” But then COVID hit, derailing the effort until this year.
In the meantime, Optimum approached the company and offered to sponsor the service. That sponsorship means RoveLoop can offer free rides for the time being, although riders have the option to tip their driver.
While the initial idea aimed to serve an evening crowd of residents coming into the village for dinner and a movie or play, it has since been revamped as a daytime service that targets employees going to and leaving work as well as those coming into the village to do their banking or shopping.
The service runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week seasonally from May through October and will pick up and drop off a rider at any address in the village.
RoveLoop currently has five of the Polaris vehicles, but only two are stationed in Sag Harbor, where they can be seen at night being recharged at Tutto il Giorno, the restaurant Mr. De Felice owns with his wife, Gabby Karan.
The company has also launched its service in East Hampton Village, where there is one car in service, and Montauk, were two are deployed.
“It’s like an Uber with a limited range that’s free,” Mr. De Felice said.
He added that if RoveLoop proves to be successful locally, it will be expanded to other resort towns on Long Island and elsewhere, including Southampton Village. “The way we built our app, we can easily run the operation in any town,” he said.
For now, though, they are concentrating in attracting riders. “Ridership is consistent” with about three riders using the service per hour, Mr. Brinkley-Cook said, adding that drivers have parked their vehicles on Main Street between rides to explain how it works to curious onlookers. The RoveLoop app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store.
Mr. Brinkley-Cook said that when the company’s cars first hit Sag Harbor’s streets, many people didn’t know what the service was about, but he said he was confident once riders gave it a try, they would be sold on the idea. “Maybe next year, people will ask for more of this kind of service in the villages and towns,” he said.