Stony Brook University’s shuttle to Port Jefferson made its inaugural trip on Thursday March 7, marking the beginning of a new pilot program.
“We think it’s a win-win, because we love to see the kids, the staff and everyone come down free,” Margot Garant, Port Jefferson’s mayor, said. “Hopefully it will be an economic engine for us down there, and bring the students in, and there’s a lot of great things to do down port.”
The approximately 20-seat bus will run on Thursdays from 3 to 9 p.m., and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Satudays. It runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. On-campus, the bus will stop at the chemistry loop, the Student Activities Center (SAC) loop and Chapin Apartments. The bus then stops at the Stop&Shop in Setauket on the way to Port Jefferson, where it makes two more stops — one on Arden Street across from Brewology and another at the Port Jefferson LIRR station. Signs mark all the bus stops and students should show their I.D.s when they board the bus.
Joan Dickinson, Stony Brook’s community relations director, said that the shuttle is free to all employees, students and their guests, but the university is trying to measure the campus’s interest level. If the program is popular, it could be renewed in the fall.
Passengers can track the shuttle’s current location on its website, or through the Passio GO app. They can also use the app to check if there are open seats available.
“It’s a free, safe, easy way to go visit Port Jefferson, and it takes cars off the road,” Dickinson said.
Students think the shuttle is a good thing, especially for residents who don’t own cars.
“It’s just like a good opportunity — especially with people who don’t have cars, I think it’s a great thing,” Sandy Zhu, a senior business and chemistry double major, said.
She was among several students from campus organizations who attended the press conference celebrating the shuttle’s kick-off on Thursday morning.
“A lot of people don’t have cars, and it’s hard for them to get to Port Jeff — there’s a lot of attractions there — so this is a great way for them to get there,” Nicole Chan, a junior economics major, added.
Port Jefferson Village is covering the operating costs — about $1,000 a week, according to the mayor.
“We don’t want anyone to think this is a student-only bus,” Kevin Wood, Port Jefferson’s parking and mobility administrator, said. “Students, faculty, visitors, people at the hospital — anyone can ride this bus right now.”
The bus was originally Port Jefferson’s answer to high tourist traffic during the summer months. It started running between Port Jefferson’s LIRR station and Port Jefferson Village between Memorial and Labor Days in 2014. Dickinson said that Garant reached out to her about repurposing the existing vehicle during the off-season as a university shuttle.
Though Garant acknowledged that the shuttle could help Port Jefferson businesses, she said it wasn’t all about the dollars and cents.
“It just makes one more connection,” Garant said. “It might be somebody who wants to move here, it might be somebody who wants to open another business here, it might be somebody who becomes another faculty member here.”
Even so, business owners, like Renee Goldfinch from Origin of Era, said they are enthusiastic about the shuttle’s passengers.
“I think it’s amazing,” Goldfinch, said. “Not everybody has a car, and if they do, not everyone wants to deal with parking. We’re all helping each other.”
Correction 3/14, 5:17 p.m.: This article previously said that the shuttle runs until 9 p.m. on Sundays. It actually runs until 6 p.m.