Long Branch shuttle struggles to attract riders

Staff Writer

LONG BRANCH— A lack of riders and corporate sponsors may be the end of the line for the Long Branch shuttle service.

According to Jacob Jones, director of the city’s Office of Community and Economic Development, this is the final year of the federal subsidy for the Shore EZ Ride. And without an increase in riders, the city would not be able to operate the shuttle at a profit.

“We are not making any money because the ridership does not support it,” Jones said during the Sept. 8 City Council workshop meeting

“Until we get that ridership to full capacity, we won’t make any money on that program. We have one more year with the subsidy of the federal government.”

A weekend shuttle service began in Long Branch during the summer of 2012, making stops along the beachfront and Broadway. The following year the city opted to expand the service to weekdays and extend the service year-round.

The jitney is a partnership between the city, the federal government and the Meadowlands Transportation Brokerage Corp., which also operates under the name Meadowlink. The service began in 2012 as a way to transport beachgoers without adding to traffic or parking problems on the weekends.

In 2013, the city entered into an agreement with Monmouth University to expand the jitney to daily service and transport students to and from points within the city.

Jones said the students have responded well to the program, but with a student ID they are not paying customers.

“Most of the riders come from Monmouth University and most of those students ride for free,” he said. “The college is supposed to reimburse the city $2,000, but they had some changes in the administration, so we were delayed in getting those funds, but even with that funding, that won’t make us make money.”

Jones said the committee for the shuttle has several meetings planned to discuss how to better promote the service and increase ridership.

He also said the attempts to attract corporate sponsors for the shuttle have not been fruitful, despite working in partnership with the Long Branch Chamber of Commerce.

“The response to that was bad, I sort of discontinued it,” Jones said. “I got nobody, save for one last year.”

Despite the shuttle’s uncertain future, Business Administrator Howard Woolley Jr. said the city would work to maintain the shuttle service.

“Basically we will put our heads together to see if we could come up with something because the federal grant runs out this year,” he said.

During the Sept. 24 meeting the council passed a resolution allocating $60,000 of Urban Enterprise Zone funding for the shuttle service for 2015-2016 and a resolution approving the service agreement for the program that will run until Sept. 30, 2016.