Posted: Monday, May 14, 2012
By EMILY PREVITI Staff Writer
Jitneys will run regular routes outside ofAtlantic Citythis summer for the first time since they started operating nearly a century ago.
After being licensed exclusively inAtlantic Cityfor 97 years, jitneys will debut Memorial Day weekend inSeaIsleCity.
Sea Isle officials and the local business community decided to try out the service to help out with parking problems in the nightlife district, which is condensed in the center of the 5-mile-long island town.
And jitney drivers, struggling amid the downturn inAtlantic City, are happy to help, said Tom Woodruff, head of the Atlantic City Jitney Association.
“If someone chooses not to participate, they certainly don’t have to,” Woodruff said. “But I’m sure more than enough people will be willing to participate. Here’s a situation where they’re working three days per week, it’s the summer season, and here’s an opportunity to make more money. I find it hard to believe the majority of people wouldn’t want to do that. The economy — inAtlantic City, especially — has dropped dramatically and had an effect on jitney drivers and the money they make. So this is an opportunity for them to make that up — the winters are tough.”
SeaIsleCitywill start taking applications for local operating licenses today, less than two weeks before the service launches Memorial Day weekend.
Anyone can apply, but the Sea Isle officials will issue 190 licenses — the same number of active licenses inAtlantic City.
People sometimes hire individual jitney drivers, who are independent contractors, for transportation to weddings, proms and other special events. Their collective Atlantic City Jitney Association also has made arrangements with government agencies to provide shuttle services for events such as the Atlantic City Airshow, and on an ongoing basis such as the rides being provided from theAtlantic CityInternationalAirport.
But this is the first time jitneys will be licensed to run continuous routes in another municipality since they started running in 1915 inAtlantic City.
Jitneys never stop operating in the casino resort. But in Sea Isle, their schedule will be more limited.
“Atlantic Cityis a 24-hour town;SeaIsleCityis not,” Woodruff said. “During the day, most people are getting onto the beach, which is right outside their door, pretty much. So the emphasis is taking people to dinner and to nightlife, the clubs.”
They’ll run only between 3 p.m. and 3 a.m. on weekends Memorial Day through June — and daily during July through Labor Day weekend — along JFK Boulevard, which runs perpendicular to the shoreline, and Landis Avenue, which runs parallel to the coast.
After that, Sea Isle City Chamber of Commerce President Christopher Glancey expects jitneys to return for special events, such as Harborfest, Oktoberfest and the Christmas tree lighting celebration held Thanksgiving Day weekend, as well as the Polar Bear Plunge in February.
Jitneys did a test run for this year’s plunge, which went well, Glancey said.
The fare is $2 until 11 p.m., when it goes up to $4 under an ordinance scheduled for introduction at the next City Council meeting at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sea Isle City Business Administrator George Savastano said. That would be less than the $5 late-night fare charged by the trolley service that ran during the past five years there.
The trolleys didn’t run frequently enough, said Glancey, prompting him and other community leaders to explore other options.
Jitneys will not shuttle people back and forth between the two coastal cities — at least for now, Woodruff said.
“Keep in mind,Atlantic Cityis still our home,” said Woodruff, whose office remains onPacific Avenuedespite the new garage and fueling station opening this week nearly 7 miles away inEggHarborTownship. “We’re there also to promoteAtlantic City.”