Two years after its launch, Suffolk County’s East End Sunday bus service pilot program has received a significant financial boost with the federal government and the county chipping in nearly $8 million over the next three years to help expand service to the full year, lower fares for East End riders and add several more Sunday routes across the county.
Suffolk County currently only has two bus lines that provide Sunday service, the S92 and 10C routes. The S92 line runs from Orient Point to East Hampton and the 10C connects East Hampton to Montauk. Both operate from Memorial Day to Columbus Day.
This year Sunday ridership is at an all-time high, county officials said. Over the first four Sundays of the season, ridership on the S92 route increased by 38 percent and rose on the 10C by 36 percent, said Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk).
“The success of the pilot program justifies the expansion,” he said. “The fact that we are seeing major ridership increases demonstrates that Sunday bus service is meeting a major unmet need.”
By January Suffolk County could have as many as 10 routes offering year-round Sunday service, including the two East End routes.
The expansion is being made possible by $4 million in federal funding. Suffolk will match that funding with additional state aid received earlier this year. The distribution breaks down to $2.6 million annually over the next three years.
The New York Metropolitan Transit Council Program Finance and Administration Committee approved the distribution of the federal money on Wednesday. The funding comes through the Job Access Reverse Commute Program, which addresses transportation challenges faced by welfare recipients and low-income residents seeking to obtain and maintain employment.
The county Department of Public Works is in the process of identifying areas that would benefit from the Sunday routes the most, such as commercial areas and poorer communities, Mr. Schneiderman said.
The year-round service would benefit many businesses on the East End, including those on the North Fork that rely on public transportation to get workers to and from their jobs, said Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue).
The funding will lower costs for East End patrons. Riders on the S92 and 10C lines now pay $2.25, a quarter more than riders in the rest of the county. The increased fee covers the cost of the Sunday bus service. One proposal under the new system would establish a $2 fare countywide, Mr. Schneiderman said.
While the funding is only in place for the next three years, Mr. Schneiderman said he hopes the program will become permanent.
“Once you get the service up and running it will hard to pull the plug,” he said.