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Mar 18, 2016 4:49 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Free Summer Shuttle Service To Begin Serving Hampton Bays, May Expand To Other Areas

Open-air electric vehicles be operating in areas of the Town of Southampton by the summer. COURTESY OF THE GOTCHA GROUP
Mar 22, 2016 2:19 PM

Hampton Bays could soon see the arrival of a new summer shuttle service, one that aims to leave a smaller environmental footprint than traditional methods of transportation.

The Gotcha Group from Charleston, South Carolina, wants to bring its open-air electric vehicles to the hamlet, providing visitors and residents with free rides between restaurants, shops and the beach.

Mac Russell, the president and CEO of Loop Rides, who is handling promotion for the Gotcha Group, said he is all set to go with his plan in Hampton Bays, and he is also working with officials to expand the shuttle to provide free rides in Sag Harbor, Southampton Village and the Village of Westhampton Beach.

He said he plans to start the program with six vehicles, and operate those vehicles from Memorial Day through Labor Day this year. After the first year, the company plans to add more vehicles, and even consider alternative loops within or between villages and hamlets. “The cars will operate six days per week, eight hours per day, providing free rides to and from the beach, downtown shopping areas and local residences,” said Mr. Russell.

The company has already developed a map of the Hampton Bays route: The shuttle would take riders on a loop from Main Street to Ponquogue Beach, in a six-passenger, open-air electric vehicle. The rides will be free, as the revenue is generated from advertising on the inside and outside of the vehicles. The shuttles also are outfitted with tablets that can stream advertisements, content and social media campaigns.

Even the drivers are considered brand ambassadors, according to Mr. Russell. One example was when Mountain Dew partnered with Gotcha Ride, and the vehicle had drinks in a cooler for the riders to sip, while the driver plugged the popular soda whenever he could.

“That’s the premise of our business: providing consumers with the convenience of a free ride along with the immersive fun of a brand experience, while enjoying said ride,” Mr. Russell said in an email.

Legally, the Gotcha Group can operate in the area without a contract, though it decided to approach the Southampton Town Board to ensure a partnership. Town Councilwoman Christine Scalera, who introduced the idea at a Town Board work session last week, said Mr. Russell had first approached her about five or six months ago.

One hitch was finding a place to charge the electric vehicles. To help out, Ms. Scalera said, the American Legion in Hampton Bays has offered to allow the vehicles to park in their lot and to plug in to charge overnight.

Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman agreed that there is a need for a shuttle, and said he was hopeful that it could expand beyond Hampton Bays. He noted that there is a particular need on weekends for the Sag Harbor shuttles. “If the private sector can create it at no cost to the town, then, great,” he said.

Another service, Hamptons Free Ride, has been operating free shuttles for several summers in Amagansett, East Hampton, Montauk and Southampton.

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By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Mar 18, 16 7:12 PM
About time. Nice to see private enterprise filling a need that public officials ignore.
By davidf (325), hampton bays on Mar 18, 16 8:36 PM
I always thought it was supposed to be that way.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Mar 18, 16 11:14 PM
Thank you Councilperson Scalera and Jamie Bowden for working so hard on this.
By G.A.Lombardi (575), Hampton Bays on Mar 18, 16 9:20 PM
What about the liability when then get run over by one of crazy drivers that drive through HB?Will the town be liable or is there a hold harmless agreement?
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Mar 19, 16 7:13 AM
It appears to be a private company which has its own insurance. I am not sure why the Town should/would be liable. They only helped introduce a new idea. If it doesn't work, I suspect the Company will leave.
By HB Proud (889), Hampton Bays on Mar 19, 16 8:06 AM
Wait till buses come in from Chinatown and drop and pick up passengers at our beaches...
By Toma Noku (616), Southampton on Mar 19, 16 8:30 AM
Why, are they putting slot machines in at Coopers?
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Mar 19, 16 10:55 AM
Interesting that it was not mentioned that 2 such vehicles operated in Southampton Village last summer season. Different company, maybe?
By zeke (40), southampton on Mar 20, 16 5:31 AM
Such a shame that we'll have to be bombarded by more ads, the hamptons are beginning to feel more and more like the internet.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Mar 20, 16 8:35 AM
East Hampton has had this type of service for several years. It's a moving billboard in the guise of a meaningful shuttle service. Holds only 5 passengers and takes a long time to complete its route. If it were a bus that would be different and actually useful.
By harbor (415), East Hampton on Mar 20, 16 1:51 PM
Hampton Freerides is already doing this in Southampton Village, Easthampton & Montauk. Freerides is a locally owned business, employing locals. Why did we need to bring in a non local company?

My bet is: They don't last past August.
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Mar 22, 16 4:50 PM
2 members liked this comment
Do these vehicles meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ?
By JamesKalin (1), on Mar 30, 16 10:53 AM