New Free Ride Service Seeks to Serve Southampton Downtowns, Beaches

Gotcha Rides began its service providing free rides on university campuses.
Gotcha Rides began its service providing free rides on university campuses.

Residents in several new hamlets of Southampton Town may have access to free rides to the beach this summer.

Loop Rides, a company that provides free rides in open-air electric cars, sponsored by advertising in the cars, is planning to provide loop service between downtowns and beaches in Hampton Bays, Westhampton Beach, Sag Harbor and Southampton Village this summer.

Loop Rides CEO Mac Russell discussed his plans with the Southampton Town Board at their March 17 work session. His company was recently acquired by Gotcha Rides, a company that provides free rides on college campuses.

He described both companies’ business models as “experiential marketing,” in which riders of the environmentally friendly service are prompted to associate the brands marketed in the cars with pleasant experiences like a trip to the beach in the Hamptons.




The Hampton Bays route, which is the only route that would not be in an incorporated village, would run from Montauk Highway down to Ponquogue Beach and then back down Squiretown Road to Montauk Highway. Shuttles would run eight hours per day, six days a week (excluding one weekday) at 20 minute intervals.

Mr. Russell said his company is developing an app that will let riders know where all cars are at a given time.

The cars, which reach a top speed of 35 miles per hour, would be charged and stored at the American Legion Hall on Ponquogue Avenue.

Mr. Russell said his company plans to grow over the next five years, adding more vehicles and loops between South Fork towns, and to the North Fork’s vineyards.

“We’d love to substantially reduce Southampton’s carbon footprint,” Mr. Russell told the town board.

Another free ride service, The Free Ride, already operates in Southampton Village, East Hampton and Montauk, and Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said he’d used their service before.

“It’s been great. If you’re going to the beach, it’s nice to get to the beach and back to your destination,” he said. “It’s become part of the tourist experience in those areas, in a very positive way.”

Mr. Schneiderman said he believes there’s room for more than one player in the free ride market in The Hamptons. He added that kids at Pierson High School in Sag Harbor are also looking for a way to get to Sagg Main Beach in Sagaponack, which could be a great use of the new service.

Mr. Russell said that advertisers who support the service will likely include alcohol companies, but they won’t include Hooters or any lewd advertising. He said Rolex has inquired about advertising on the Hamptons routes.

He added that Loop Rides drivers are experienced in dealing with drunk riders, and will refuse to give rides to disorderly passengers. Drivers would also undergo background checks.

“People are generally friendly when they’re getting a free ride,” he said of the riders.

Mr. Schneiderman said he’d like to see the Hampton Bays route expanded to include some destinations along the Shinnecock Canal, including parks and restaurants and the Meschutt Beach Hut.

Mr. Russell said some of those destinations could be included, as long as the route didn’t include any roads whose speed limit exceeds 35 miles per hour.

“I’m encouraged that you want to do this,” said Mr. Schneiderman. “I hope the numbers work for you.”

 




Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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