The is always an option when one must suddenly, reliably get into New York City from the Hamptons.
With almost clockwork timing, many just assume a Jitney will be available at the moment they want in order to time their arrival to New York City or return home to the Hamptons.
The concept of a 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. The dream of founder James Davidson who came up with the name, “Hampton Jitney,” (he coined the name at a dinner party at artist Loren Dunlap’s Sagaponack house) was originally to create a bike bus to ferry people and bikes from Amagansett to Southampton College so that one could get about without a car, to get to work, or make a visit. The trip to the city was almost an afterthought.
Sisco Barnard was one of the original drivers when service began in 1974 with a handful of vans that seated 10 and had a bike hauler behind them. Sisco remembers the fare as $12 one-way and $20 roundtrip to New York City. Of course the Long Island Rail Road used all of its power and influences to ban the Jitney, but with help of the , Davidson prevailed, even comparing Jitney service to the train by saying it was like comparing, “a steamship to a jetliner.”
Recalling that slogan Sisco Barnard also remembers the first bus, a 1966, “Challenger,” purchased in 1980 seating 46 travelers, which then seemed like a Boeing 747. It was vehicle number eight with the previous seven being GM vans. Just recently Hampton Jitney rolled out its “greenest coach yet,” number 110.
After the first year, intra-Hampton service between the towns was suspended because it was not financially feasible but the service to New York City became the staple of the Jitney’s success. Sisco remembers some of the original passengers back and forth naming Lauren Bacall, George Plimpton and Betty Freidman. He chuckled about picking up passengers from a “barn on Butter Lane” and bookings taken on the phone in the kitchen of James Davidson’s home.
There were 33 drivers, mostly part time. Now there are over 100 well trained professional drivers.
Always privately owned, the Hampton Jitney was purchased in the 1980s buy J.Brent and Missy Lynch. Today Geoffrey Lynch is president with family members Andrew, Stephanie and Peter also active. Their dad passed away in 2006.
A few years back a marketing director proudly stated that both James Davidson and the Lynch family have taken the Jitney, “from a kitchen table business to one of the most successful businesses in the Hamptons.”
Coach number 110 was one of the first greenest coaches ever, When it first came out the Jitney staff stated that, “One fully occupied motor coach is 475 percent more fuel efficient than the most popular hybrid car.”
For some reason deceased Jitney founder James Davidson must be smiling proudly from up above. Born from the first oil shortage, the Hampton Jitney is now an integral part of the solution of conserving fuel and saving money. With gas over $4 a gallon and heading to $5 so many more people are opting to use the Jitney and leaving their cars behind. With the flexible schedules almost hourly, seven days a week a live reservationist can be reached from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week at 631-283- 4600, and 24 hour a day bookings are available via the Hampton Jitney website, www.hamptonjitney.com, quite a comparison to phone calls taken on James Davidson’s kitchen phone.
The saying is, “A lot of couples were created on the Jitney!” The Hampton Jitney has become, part of the fabric of the Hamptons, it is an icon, to some it’s why the Hamptons is the Hamptons. The tradition of reliable daily service is always at the highest level. So from a concept that was born at a 1973 Sagaponack dinner party reacting to a Connecticut television station’s story on a “bike bus,” has evolved into the most reliable, and frequent option to traveling between the Hamptons and New York City.
Driver Sisco Barnard, remembers driving with 10 passenger vans, he remembers the purchase of the first large motor coach, he remembers being in James Davidson’s kitchen watching the beginning happen. Now still in the Jitney’s employ he watches the Lynch family run the concept of fuel efficient travel at the highest level. The tradition of taking the Hampton Jitney is not only convenient it is smart.