Sunday bus service is back.
The popular East End program will kick off on Sunday and run from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day weekend.
Back for its second year, the on the S92 and 10C lines. The S92 bus line runs from Orient Point to East Hampton, making stops in Sag Harbor, Water Mill, Southampton Village, Hampton Bays, Flanders and Riverhead. The 10C line connects East Hampton riders to the S92 route making stops in Montauk, Amagansett and East Hampton.
But although many residents are thrilled by the news -- they'd like to see a year-round, more comprehensive solution.
Vince Taldone, board member of 5 Town Rural Transit, Inc., has been advocating for year-round Sunday and holiday bus service, as well as a more forward-thinking East End public transportation plan, for years.
"I am encouraged to learn of the start-up of our second summer of Sunday and holiday bus service on the East End," Taldone said. "After a pilot program last year, Suffolk County officials learned that, indeed, residents and visitors to eastern Long Island will use public transportation if it is provided to them on Sundays and holidays."
According to Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who has long fought for Sunday bus service, the program was immensely popular.
Taldone agreed and said, "Riders poured into the system during our first summer of operations, exceeding all estimates of demand by the county. On early morning runs from Riverhead to Southampton, it was standing room only on several Sundays," he said.
Despite a price hike that some found hard to bear, Taldone said ridership never fell off, only swelled, proving "beyond a shadow of a doubt," that year-round service is needed.
Residents, Taldone said, utilized the bus to get to work, shop, recreate, and attend church.
Another plus, Taldone said, was that the bus service meant more customers for East End businesses. Also, he said, "It was a step forward for our environment with buses displacing many single occupant automobiles on our congested roads."
Schneiderman and Legislator Ed Romaine, who co-sponsored the measure, have worked to provide year round Sunday bus service for years, Taldone added.
Schneiderman said he had to fight to maintain the program this year. "I almost lost it," he said.
Last year, Schneiderman said, Sunday ridership exceeded all expectations. "It was phenomenal," he said.
The pilot program was funded through a on the East End, Schneiderman said. This year, with fares going up county-wide to $2.00, the East End service went to $2.25.
The difference was met by raising senior and student fares across the county. "I had to pull a minor miracle to keep Sunday bus service," Schneiderman said.
Looking ahead, Schneiderman would like to see Sunday service expanded county-wide and is working on a new plan to finance the $1 million necessary to make it happen.
Schneiderman's proposed "critical artery plan" would mean that 10 bus routes across the county would be inter-connected, so that all residents across the county would be within minutes of a bus stop.