by Jinsoo Henry Oh
As a North Fork native and returning resident, it might seem a little strange that smart city design and urban infrastructure have always interested me more than agriculture and farm vistas.
Having dabbled in urban planning during my college and even high school years, it’s safe to say that the urban environment has always been an interest of mine and a place from which I take inspiration.
Adorning my wall, a now-vintage 1980s New York City subway map waits to be joined by a recently purchased Hamptons and North Fork subway map from an aspirational subway system map design company.
While I’ve come to appreciate the bounty and draw of the East End, it is still hard to argue against the advantages of smart urban city design and its ability to compact interesting cultural institutions, events, and daily necessities together in a practical and efficient manner.
Opposed to the suburban and exurban sprawl of a place like Long Island, cities can provide affordable and accessible mobility to a much larger segment of the population as they simultaneously reduce overall environmental impact.
While the fictional East End subway system will never be built, another form of transit is coming to town that will effectively accomplish the same goals, and be infinitely more cost effective and logical than boring tunnels under beach dunes.
Trolley shuttles – with their quaint visual aesthetic, flexible mobility, and lack of a need of any additional rail infrastructure – may be the perfect solution to a growing problem, and capture both the cultural and logistical juxtapositions of the rural and urban that define this region in the high season.
Summering on the East End is becoming more and more popular every year because of the area’s beaches and the boom in popularity of farm/sea to table dining, wine, and craft beverages. The Twin Forks’ infrastructure has had difficulty coping with the change.
The Hamptons has seen its “trade parade” delays on weekday mornings on Sunrise and Montauk highways for years. The fall season on the North Fork sees exiting traffic backing up from the hamlet of Laurel all the way into Riverhead on busy weekends.
There is also the ever-present problem of driving while intoxicated, especially with the role alcohol plays in the local economy. According to federal statistics, rural areas account for 53 percent of all fatal car accidents, highly disproportionate if accounting by population, as the majority of Americans live in urban areas.
Many East End visitors come from the most populous and most densely populated urban area in the country, and are both accustomed to and attempt car-less travel when visiting.
I remember on more than a few occasions, being out at a local wine tasting room and seeing visitors almost stranded because the local taxi company could not pick them up for another hour. It is clear that solutions are needed for improving the way in which both locals and visitors can get around town.
This summer, the Town of Southampton, in conjunction with M&V Limousines, the operator of Hampton Luxury Liner, has begun tackling its transit problem. The Hampton Bays Trolley Shuttle Service began its inaugural run on Saturday, June 17, attempting to simultaneously tackle the issue of mobility and combat traffic.
The town is also looking to offer more amenities to “spruce up” an area that is sometimes overlooked, compared to its more affluent neighbors. Hampton Bays also happens to be one of the most densely populated areas of the East End, which makes it a prime candidate for this type of transit experiment.
On the trolley service’s opening day, I began my journey as the sole passenger at the Hampton Bays LIRR station, which serves as the line’s start and end point. As I embarked, I was kindly greeted by my driver, Salvatore Diquattro of M&V Limousines, and Southampton Town Director of Public Transportation & Traffic Safety Thomas Neely.
While it was slightly discouraging to see the lack of a strong initial turnout, I was able to gain a lot of insight into the town’s goals and how it envisions residents and visitors will use the service.
Hampton Luxury Liner has two vehicles reserved for its runs – one that looks like a traditional trolley and the one I rode, which was essentially a mini-bus. The town plans to use the trolley design most of the time and reserve the mini-bus for backup.
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