The Peconic Bay Water Jitney — a passenger ferry service operating on a trial basis this summer between Sag Harbor and Greenport — has not seen the ridership Hampton Jitney President Geoffrey Lynch originally hoped for during its first two weeks of service.
According to Lynch, the ferry service has averaged 175 riders per day, a far cry from the 300 passengers Lynch originally said would make the venture a financially worthwhile endeavor for his company to pursue.
However, on Tuesday night in front of the Sag Harbor Village Board, Lynch said he remains hopeful that once his firm starts advertising and marketing the water taxi in a comprehensive fashion ridership will increase, making it viable for the Jitney to consider pursuing long term plans for a passenger ferry service out of Sag Harbor.
“To date there has been a total of 1,920 passengers both ways, which is roughly 175 passengers a day,” said Lynch. “It’s not enough that I would say it is a viable business, but it is encouraging given we have only had 11 days of operation.”
Lynch said statistics have shown that ridership is fairly even in terms of people coming from Sag Harbor or Greenport villages, although Greenport has a slightly higher number of passengers using the service.
A shuttle bus service, operating from a Pierson High School parking lot to the ferry and also connecting with stops in East Hampton, also shows lower ridership than expected. According to statistics presented by Lynch on Tuesday night, about 60 people in total have taken advantage of the shuttle, just five or six passengers using the shuttle to get to East Hampton Village.
Noting he plans to be more aggressive with marketing and advertising, Lynch said he is hoping ridership will increase in coming months. Sag Harbor Village’s temporary law allowing the passenger ferry service to operate sunsets on October 31, although Lynch has said will likely suspend the service and assess its success after Labor Day weekend.
The ferry was docked on Tuesday and for most of Wednesday contending with mechanical issues, but was expected to start service again by Wednesday afternoon.
Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride wondered if Lynch would even continue the shuttle service given its low ridership.
“I have committed to do it,” said Lynch. “Unless there are objections I plan to continue to do it. If it went to zero despite marketing I may consider pulling it but at the moment it is seven days a week.”
Sag Harbor resident Mia Grosjean wondered if discount commuter tickets might encourage people coming to Sag Harbor or Greenport for work in the morning to use the ferry as a means of public transportation. Lynch said ridership is particularly low on the 7 a.m. ferry from Greenport and the 8 a.m. leaving Long Wharf in Sag Harbor.
Lynch said if a demand is there, his company would respond.
“I am happy to talk to them,” he said. “Send them my way.”
Resident Myrna Davis, speaking on behalf of the board of Save Sag Harbor said she was concerned that surveys — meant to discern how people were getting to the ferry, where they were parking and how they were spending their money — had not made it onto the boat yet.
“It’s the only way without following people to know where they are parking,” said Davis. “A lot of people think the excessive traffic, and I know it is happening in other villages as well, is because of the ferry.”
“I will say, there is a lot of traffic around and the water Jitney only wishes they were all riding the ferry,” said Mayor Gilbride.
Mayor Gilbride and Lynch committed to ensuring the surveys would be on the ferry as soon as possible. Mayor Gilbride added that the first meeting of a committee to monitor the ferry will be held next Tuesday.
“The traffic for the last two weeks that everyone is encountering — trust me, it is not the ferry,” said Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano, who is monitoring the ferry service’s impacts not only as the Chief of Police but also as a member of the committee the village has created to assess the impact of the ferry on the community.
Noting that despite fears, the ferry was not causing a wake and not running over boaters or children sailing, Chief Fabiano said many of the concerns about the ferry have so far proved unfounded.
“I just want to say it is not happening,” he said. “Enough is enough.”