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Tourist/resident bus service back on board for Shelter Island: Chamber of Commerce suggests Senior Center vehicle

It’s back to the drawing board for the idea of a bus service on Shelter Island for tourists and residents.

In May, the Shelter Island Chamber of Commerce went before the Town Board with a pitch to explore the idea of bringing a “Hamptons Hopper,” 25-passenger minibus here for a pilot run this summer. Passengers would not be charged to use the minibus that would also be available to those living on the Island, whether full- or part-timers.

Such shuttles have operated in venues around the world, enabling people to hop on and off to spend as little or as much time at each stop as they please.

Chamber representatives hoped the minibus would bring more visitors to the Island, resulting in increased business for shops and restaurants, as well as to visit key sites here.

But at Tuesday’s Town Board work session, Chamber President Linda Eklund said that idea was scrapped because an agreement with the Hamptons bus company had not worked out to the Chamber’s satisfaction, especially on a time frame to get the program up and rolling.

Instead, Ms. Eklund said the Chamber was proposing using the town-owned bus that was funded by the Senior Citizens Foundation of Shelter Island. The vehicle is used to transport seniors unable to drive or arrange their own rides to doctors’ appointments, as well as to afford the growing senior population on the Island the ability to attend special events on- and off-Island.

As Ms. Eklund noted, a tourist bus to aid businesses will still be an asset for the senior community, as well as other residents, if there is an agreed upon route and times when the bus will be running and making stops. And Councilwoman BJ Ianfolla said the bus has, at times, been under-utilized by seniors.

The Chamber and the town can partner on details including insurance and salaries for qualified drivers, which Supervisor Gerry Siller said could be one of the major hurdles for the program.

Another roadblock to skirt, Town Attorney Stephen Kiely said, is to be sure no town revenues are used for private services, but Board members said that was a detail that could be worked out, especially with a bus route being a public service for Islanders as well as businesses.

Ms. Eklund also noted that grant funding was a possibility.

Donald D’Amato of the Senior Foundation told the Board that his group was onboard, as long as the transportation needs of the senior community would be prioritized.

Supervisor Siller suggested a working group be formed to meet and discuss details, with the possibility that a two-week trial run be made next month to see how the program would work.