A shuttle bus to carry winery passengers

08/19/2013 8:00 AM |

Jitney

The North Fork wine trail attracts thousands of visitors each weekend. With dozens of vineyards to choose from, getting to each one – especially after the bottles have been uncorked – takes planning.

To help take the guess work out and get people to their destination safely, the East End Tourism Alliance and North Fork Promotion Council are launching a pilot shuttle bus service to connect wineries this Veterans Day Weekend.

The pilot program is being made possible through a portion of a  “I Love NY” $300,000 grant, aiming to help promote agritourism in Suffolk County, according to Steven Bate, executive director of the Long Island Wine Council.

“The real transformative part of the project is to test out the feasibility of a free shuttle bus to facilitate tourist access for the huge New York metro population without their own cars,” he said.

The buses, which will be provided by Hampton Jitney, will run in a loop between Riverhead and Greenport. There will also be feeder buses from the Orient Point ferry and Long Island Rail Road. Stops will be made at each location approximately every 45 minutes during business hours, Mr. Bate said.

The groups behind the shuttle are currently planning a ‘Taste North Fork” festival to coincide with the pilot program on Veterans Day weekend. The three-day event will feature a full range of activities celebrating local wines and foods across the region, Mr. Bate said. Wineries, as well as local breweries and distilleries, will be invited to offer special tasting menus paired with foods from local restaurants.

Joan Bischoff of the North Fork Promotional Council said that he hopes the shuttle program can continue next year for the entire summer season.

The organizations are also now working with the towns on finalizing the exact shuttle route.

“We are very excited about this opportunity and very grateful to I Love NY for giving us the seed capital to launch what we hope will become an annual event that provides a significant seasonal boost to our local economy,” Mr. Bate said.

cmurray@timesreview.com