On the Trolley: A Trip Through Hampton Bays

Posted On: 06/23/2017

by Jinsoo Henry Oh, featured in East End Beacon

As a North Fork native and returning resident, it might seem a little strange that smart city design and urban infrastructure have always interested me more than agriculture and farm vistas.

Having dabbled in urban planning during my college and even high school years, it’s safe to say that the urban environment has always been an interest of mine and a place from which I take inspiration.

Adorning my wall, a now-vintage 1980s New York City subway map waits to be joined by a recently purchased Hamptons and North Fork subway map from an aspirational subway system map design company.

While I’ve come to appreciate the bounty and draw of the East End, it is still hard to argue against the advantages of smart urban city design and its ability to compact interesting cultural institutions, events, and daily necessities together in a practical and efficient manner.

Opposed to the suburban and exurban sprawl of a place like Long Island, cities can provide affordable and accessible mobility to a much larger segment of the population as they simultaneously reduce overall environmental impact.

While the fictional East End subway system will never be built, another form of transit is coming to town that will effectively accomplish the same goals, and be infinitely more cost effective and logical than boring tunnels under beach dunes. 

Trolley shuttles – with their quaint visual aesthetic, flexible mobility, and lack of a need of any additional rail infrastructure – may be the perfect solution to a growing problem, and capture both the cultural and logistical juxtapositions of the rural and urban that define this region in the high season.

Summering on the East End is becoming more and more popular every year because of the area’s beaches and the boom in popularity of farm/sea to table dining, wine, and craft beverages. The Twin Forks’ infrastructure has had difficulty coping with the change.

The Hamptons has seen its “trade parade” delays on weekday mornings on Sunrise and Montauk highways for years. The fall season on the North Fork sees exiting traffic backing up from the hamlet of Laurel all the way into Riverhead on busy weekends.

There is also the ever-present problem of driving while intoxicated, especially with the role alcohol plays in the local economy. According to federal statistics, rural areas account for 53 percent of all fatal car accidents, highly disproportionate if accounting by population, as the majority of Americans live in urban areas.

 Many East End visitors come from the most populous and most densely populated urban area in the country, and are both accustomed to and attempt car-less travel when visiting.

I remember on more than a few occasions, being out at a local wine tasting room and seeing visitors almost stranded because the local taxi company could not pick them up for another hour. It is clear that solutions are needed for improving the way in which both locals and visitors can get around town.

This summer, the Town of Southampton, in conjunction with M&V Limousines, the operator of Hampton Luxury Liner, has begun tackling its transit problem. The Hampton Bays Trolley Shuttle Service began its inaugural run on Saturday, June 17, attempting to simultaneously tackle the issue of mobility and combat traffic.

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