Boro shuttle buses approaching last stop

Commuters never took to bus service provided through NJ Transit

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

The Red Bank Shuttle Bus is turning around and leaving town. "We are doing away with the shuttle bus," said Councilman John Curley. "We forwarded a letter to NJ Transit this week, and gave them a 90-day notice with intent to cancel. We plan to stop running the service on Nov. 26."

Less than one year after the $1-per-trip shuttle service was established, ridership on the 20-passenger bus remains low — generating a monthly average of $325.

"Ridership never increased," Curley said. "The buses were constantly breaking down, and, quite frankly, it was causing a safety problem."

Borough Business Administrator Stanley Sickels said the mechanical problems with the two buses were the biggest concern.

"It’s been a nightmare," he said. "There’s been problems with the steering mechanisms and the overhaul. There has been constant various problems."

Maintenance costs for the two shuttle buses are currently funded through a $60,000 grant from NJ Transit. The $22,779 annual salaries for the shuttles’ two bus drivers are also covered through the grants.

"Right now, the service is not costing the town a dime," Sickels said. "This year, we get $30,000 per shuttle."

However, the grant will dwindle to $20,000 per shuttle the next year, and to $10,000 per shuttle the following year. "With ongoing equipment problems, and without ridership, the governing body determined it is best to terminate the service and return the shuttles to NJ Transit before the costs to maintain the system becomes a burden on our taxpayers," Sickels said.

According to NJ Transit spokesperson Janet Hines, there have been several complaints about the buses.

"We are extremely disappointed with the buses’ performance, and we have a meeting scheduled with the manufac­turer and vendor [on Sept. 16]," she said.

"As a result, we’ve delayed the third round of the NJ Transit Shuttle Bus Program until the manufacturer is able to find a solution."

The Red Bank Commuter Shuttle Bus began operating in October 2002. Running for about two hours — 16 times a day — each weekday morning and two more hours each weekday evening, the bus loops around the bor­ough, beginning and ending its nine-stop route at the Red Bank Train Sta­tion.

In 2000, the borough was one of 18 municipalities chosen for NJ Transit’s Shuttle Bus Project.

Back then, officials hoped that es­tablishing a shuttle bus would foster a pedestrian-friendly environment, while aiding the borough’s parking woes.

Officials had also planned to run the shuttle bus during midday hours, making stops at locations such as Riverview Medical Center, the library and Foodtown.

But Curley said that’s not going to happen.

"It just hasn’t caught on," he said. "Personally, I don’t think we have the best marketing plan."

Sickels said the borough did its best to publicize the service. "We passed out schedules and we sent several press releases to the newspapers," he said.

Borough Parking Manager Neil Burnip, who is in charge of marketing and promoting the shuttle bus, refused to comment on the matter.