Is the Peconic Bay Water Jitney one and done?

COURTESY PHOTO | The Peconic Bay Water Jitney.

The Peconic Bay Water Jitney, which ran five daily round trips between Sag Harbor and Greenport all summer long, might not be back next year unless investors show an interest in underwriting the business, according to a Shelter Island Town Board member.

The 53-passenger ferry, running seven days a week until recently, has carried more than 15,000 people since launching at the end of June, but “it’s not a moneymaker” yet,  Councilwoman Chris Lewis told the Shelter Island Town Board Tuesday while reporting on an East End Transportation Council meeting she attended last week. The council, charged with exploring mass transit alternatives for the region, comprises representatives from the five East End towns.

Ms. Lewis said Geoffrey Lynch, president of Hampton Jitney, had reported at the meeting on the Water Jitney’s first season in operation and predicted that it wouldn’t be back. Mr. Lynch  partnered with Mattituck businessman Jim Ryan to launch the service.

According to Ms. Lewis, Mr. Lynch said there will be “no second summer” for the ferry unless investors are found.

In an interview Wednesday, Mr. Ryan denied the claim that the passenger ferry won’t be back next season if investors aren’t secured.

“[Mr. Lynch’s] intention sounds like he was looking for additional investors to help support the service,” Mr. Ryan said.

Mr. Lynch wasn’t immediately available for comment.

The ferry was not a moneymaker, Ms. Lewis said, because there had been “so much outlay.”  Mr. Ryan agreed, but said he and Mr. Lynch knew the first season wouldn’t turn a profit.

“Before we even started, we knew we would run in the red,” Mr. Ryan said. “Next year, we’ll probably run in the red again. At this point, we’re focused on developing ridership.”

The 40-minute ferry run cost passengers $11 one way and $20 round trip.

Among the costs were $12,000 to rent parking lots in Sag Harbor and Greenport and the expense of shuttling passengers from their cars to the ferry terminals, which was a required service to ease concerns in both villages about downtown traffic congestion.

“They had hoped to pick up some commuter” traffic between the North and South forks, Ms. Lewis said, “but that didn’t work.”  Nevertheless, the partners continue to be interested. According to Ms. Lewis, the service generated so much enthusiasm that they had been encouraged “but they clearly need investors.”

Jennifer Gustavson contributed reporting for this story.

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