The free shuttle transportation around town and to the beach, Circuit, formerly known as Free Ride, plans on resuming operations in East Hampton Town. On Monday, June 8, Circuit resumed with limited service in Montauk. Founded in 2011 by East End locals James Mirras and Alex Esposito, the company is keeping the community in mind.
Since its inception, the free electric shuttle transportation company has expanded to eight states. Through the help of Urban-X, a “venture start-up accelerator,” and municipality organizations, it has managed to land major city contracts in places like San Diego and New Rochelle where the city pays for the eco-friendly shuttle type service, a solution to the micro-transit problems many urban areas face. All it takes is downloading an app, setting up a ride, or flagging down a car if you see one on its usual route.
According to the National Household Travel Survey, 16.4 percent of vehicle trips are only a single mile and 13.8 percent of trips are two miles, making up two thirds of the most vehicle use by trip distance (number one was six to 10 miles). Those numbers are reflected in much of the Hamptons town parking and beach transportation, a logistical nightmare come the summer months. Circuit not only eliminates part of that congestion but it reduces carbon monoxide emitted by cars for short distances.
“Transportation is an essential service and a lot of people depend on it for their commutes,” Esposito said. In New Rochelle, Circuit has not only helped mitigate parking issues at the train stations, but have aided essential needs in what Governor Andrew Cuomo deemed a COVID-19 hot spot. 511 New York Ride Share used the Circuit shuttle for transporting out-of-state healthcare workers who came to assist in crisis conditions, from their hotel to the Montefiore Hospital.
The Hamptons is one of the ride company’s fully ad-supported routes, but as of now, Circuit is planning on resuming only in East Hampton Town. “We are working closely to make sure we align with the town’s reopening plan. We’ll enact similar safety procedures that we have in other markets,” Esposito said.
Resuming operations comes down to three factors — the operations team, advertisers, and the Town of East Hampton. Plans are to tentatively begin in Montauk and then resume in East Hampton Village shortly after. Some advertisers want to have Circuit running again in a timely manner so they don’t lose the entire summer of potential marketing to the Hamptons demographic, while others, trying to be sensitive to community concerns, are requesting a pause in ad placement and pushing back roll out dates.
Circuit is prepared to take on social distancing concerns. Each car, which more closely resembles a golf cart, holds five passengers and a driver with three rows of two seats each. There are no windows, but rather an open-air concept. Unlike Uber, all Circuit drivers are salaried employees. In cities where Circuit has continued running, drivers wear personal protective equipment and conduct regular cleaning, with separate partitions on some routes, and others even included adding individual doors to the vehicles. There are plans to incorporate similar procedures on the East End. As for the riders themselves, Circuit plans to cooperate with the town’s desire to keep overcrowding at bay.
“Fortunately, most people have been wearing masks in public. If someone is getting a free ride to the beach, the least they can do is put a mask on,” Esposito said.