Guest Spot: Here’s how we can improve bus service on the North Fork

During a short visit to Winter Park, Colo., I was impressed by how this small town prepares for their seasonal visitors. Winter Park has a permanent population of 999 people (2010 Census). It can host up to 20,000 visitors during the peak of their ski season. Big topics among town officials include the impact on parking, traffic congestion, DUI, increased carbon emissions, etc. …

Sound familiar?

Their solution is simple: LIFT. Lift is a bus transportation system that is personalized and reliable. It is used by everyone in town — visitors exploring the shops, employees going to work, skiers and snowboarders heading to the slopes, seniors going to the library, foodies in search of a new restaurant experience, even basic grocery shopping. It allows many visitors to enjoy Winter Park without a car.

The good news is that the North Fork already has its own LIFT bus … well, sort of. I encourage my North Fork friends to ride the S92 bus, either to wineries or to dinner in Greenport. My efforts have not convinced many new riders. Here are the three most common complaints I hear about our S92 bus:

“When is the bus arriving?”

Winter Park solved this problem by leveraging a mobile app called RIDEHOP. The app detects the location of the bus and displays the actual arrival time on your phone. It allows passengers to decide if they want to run to the stop or wait for the next bus. The S92 heading east through the North Fork begins its journey in East Hampton hours earlier in the day. The scheduled bus times are rough estimates at best due to unpredictable traffic. Buses can often be up to an hour behind schedule. With only one bus every two hours, it can be excruciating trying to plan a ride on the S92. This simple and cheap bus locator app would eliminate this problem!

“Why is the bus late?”

The S92 is designed as a point-to-point bus line within the Suffolk County network. This needs to change. The S92 should be separated into smaller networks — North Fork and South Fork. Having two smaller networks does not increase the number of buses or employees. It just uses the resources in a better and more reliable way at the same expense.

And the best one: “There is a bus on the North Fork?”

A bit of marketing will help increase riders. There are great names that would bring some excitement to our bus service. I suggest the “North Fork Trolley” or the “Beach and Wine Bus.” A catchy name can go a long way.

I am extending my ideas to the Suffolk County Transportation Authority, as well as to Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell. Change doesn’t happen over night. Let’s ride the bus to Town Hall and start the conversation to help maximize the efficiency of the S92 bus!

The author is a resident of Southold Town and holds a degree in engineering and marketing.