If you live on the east end, you put mileage on your car. There are a lucky few who work from home or only commute a short distance, but most folks drive a good distance to work or shop and buy groceries. There are even a few who commute to Manhattan. Traffic can be annoying, but everyone has a personal plan to avoid it. We all have all special routes.
There was a time when my daily drive was from Ditch Plains in Montauk to Bridgehampton all year round. I used back roads as often as possible, but the Napeague stretch was that part of Route 27 one couldn’t avoid. There were days when I enjoyed whizzing through the narrow stretch between Napeague Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean. I have seen eagles, fox, pheasants, and of course, turkeys and deer. There were those other times I crawled along. We have all been there.
Not many remember the Hampton Jitney was initially created to ferry bikes and folks from points located in Amagansett to Southampton College in 1973. The legend is that the concept was born at a 1973 Sagaponack dinner party reacting to a Connecticut television station’s story on a “bike bus.” That TV story evolved a process to create the most reliable and frequently used option to travel between the Hamptons and New York City.
The folks at the Jitney told me the Jitney was born during the First Arab Oil boycott in 1973 that caused a horrendous gas shortage in the U.S. and long lines at the pump. James Davidson, the founder of the Hamptons Jitney, came up with the name, “Hampton Jitney.” He coined the name at a dinner party at artist Loren Dunlap’s Sagaponack house. The Hampton Jitney was initially created as a bike bus to ferry people and bikes from Amagansett to Southampton College so that one could get about without a car, get to work, or visit. The trip to the city was almost an afterthought.
After that first year of service, the intra-Hampton service between the towns was suspended. The service was not financially feasible. However, the service to New York City became the staple of Jitney’s success. At first passengers were picked up from a “barn on Butter Lane” and all the bookings were taken on the phone in the kitchen of James Davidson’s home. There were 33 drivers, mostly part-time. Always privately owned, the Hampton Jitney was later purchased in the 1980s by J.Brent and Missy Lynch. Today, in its 50th year of operation, Geoffrey Lynch is the President of Hampton Jitney, Inc.
I once interviewed an original driver in 2006. Driver Sisco Barnard. He remembered driving with 10 passenger vans, and remembered the purchase of the first large motor coach. Mr. Barnard remembered being in James Davidson’s kitchen watching the beginning happen. He said, it went “from a kitchen table business to one of the most successful businesses in the Hamptons.”
Most likely, everyone has taken a Jitney ride into Manhattan. It’s amazing how they run like clockwork and how reliable they are. Occasionally traffic affects arrival times, but the service does pick you up on time.
Watching the hilarious Jitney scenes on Ray Donovan reminded me of my favorite Jitney story. If you have seen Jon Voight on the Jitney in Ray Donavan yet, go to YouTube and watch it. Years back, I wrote for the largest weekly free paper. The paper was always available on the Jitney. One issue had my articles stacked on two consecutive pages. I remember riding next to a man reading my articles and continually laughing out loud. I didn’t mention who I was. As a writer, that was one of my greatest professional pleasures.