One of the new things in East Hampton Village this season is Hamptons Free Ride, the wonderful Chrysler Gem electric six-seater vehicles that take passengers from nine designated pickup spots to Main Beach and back in about 20 minutes. Former East Hampton students James Mirras and Alex Esposito took their banking and consulting job skills and somehow came up with the concept of providing this free eco-friendly service, which is paid for by advertising fees from major and local sponsors. Ads are played on a 13-inch TV screen mounted inside the electric minibus and played in a loop during the ride in a very tasteful way.
I finally took my first ride on the shuttle, taking the ride with 21-year-old Kyle White, one of four drivers. White said the service runs seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., “but not during thunderstorms.” Weekday service is scheduled until the week after Labor Day, with weekend service through the end of September. “As of now, we may extend into early October,” said White. [expand]
I was picked up in front of the East Hampton Library off Route 114 and Main Street. There was one seat left. The lightweight minibus/golf cart-style vehicle goes around 26 miles per hour. I clipped on my seat belt and off we went. I enjoyed the unique feeling of being whisked down Ocean Avenue on the way to the beach, feeling relaxed and enjoying the summer breeze through the open windows. Chad, a young 20-ish professional from New York City was sitting next to me and was spending his first day ever in East Hampton. He had come out by train and was going to the beach to hook up with friends who were saving a spot for him at Main Beach.
When we arrived at the beach everyone jumped out with their beach bags, and I had the feeling I was in a place like St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. Before I could ask White a few more questions, the minibus was filled with passengers to go back to the village. Two young ladies wanted to go to the historic section and were planning on going back to the beach while the other two passengers were heading to long-term parking to fetch their cars for their drive back to the city.
The official stops going from Main Beach to the village and back are The Palm Restaurant/Hunting Inn, East Hampton Middle School; the East Hampton train station, the Y.M.C.A.East Hampton RECenter, Gingerbread Parking long-term parking lot, Herrick Park, Park Place, the Reutershan Parking Lot (by Khanh Sports), the Ladies Village Improvement Society, and the East Hampton Library.
White explained there are four vehicles with two always in service. In the village long-term parking lot LIPA has set up (with village permission) an electrical recharging station. It takes, according to Kyle , one hour and 45 minute to re-charge the vehicles, which stay charged for three and a half hours. (No vehicle has run out of juice while in service this year.) In the evening the vehicles are charged and stored at a private location.
So I asked White if anyone famous has jumped into the Hamptons Free Ride, and he said, “Jon Bon Jovi checked it out as did Kelly Bensimon of “Housewives of New York City.”
So has it been successful? “Yes very, really better than we thought. The advertisers are happy, the owners are happy and the riders are happy.”
Because of Hamptons Free Ride, beachgoers can hop into the village for lunch, pick up something at a shop, grab a beer, and go back to the beach, never having to move the car, or beach set up. Or better yet, out-of-town folks without beach stickers can park in the long-term parking and have Village beach access without paying a daily rate or paying for a beach-parking sticker. The whole thing is a win-win.
Some of the sponsors are ABC network, Sears (mygofer.com), the NBA’s NJ Nets and DrinkHint. Local sponsors are the Blue Parrot Restaurant, the Boathouse Restaurant, Hamptons Bagels, Uihlein’s Marina, East Hampton Indoor Tennis, Sand Dollar Development, Whalebonecreative.com, Khanh Sports and Saunders Realtors . I mentioned all the sponsors to say thank you for my free ride to the beach.