By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Those lime green and white jitneys will be traveling along the streets of Ocean City again next summer, bringing cheap and convenient public transportation for passengers heading to the Boardwalk or downtown shopping district.
City Council on Thursday approved a $67,825 contract with the Atlantic City Jitney Association to operate the shuttle service for the second summer in a row. The ACJA was the only bidder for the contract.
Ocean City launched jitney service last summer in partnership with the ACJA under a pilot program to see whether shuttle service to the Boardwalk and downtown business district would be popular with residents and visitors.
The Boardwalk route started at 55th Street and West Avenue in the island’s south end and ran a continuous loop to Battersea Road and back using 14th Street as a crossover.
For the downtown service, the jitneys traveled along Asbury Avenue between 55th Street and Battersea Road.
Fares for both the Boardwalk and downtown routes were just $2. The city touted the jitney service as low cost and convenient public transportation that relieved passengers of the hassle of trying to find public parking during the busy summer tourism season.
The initial results proved encouraging, which prompted the city to bring back the jitneys for another summer.
“The ACJA is reliable, consistent, and the ridership feedback was overwhelmingly positive during the 2022 season,” Dan Kelchner, the city’s director of Community Affairs, wrote in a memo attached to the Council agenda.
Kelchner called the ACJA’s performance “beyond satisfactory.”
“We are very confident that the ACJA can continue to provide a high level of consistency and customer service to our residents and visitors alike for the 2023 season,” he wrote.
For 2023, the routes, fares and service will be “largely the same” as in 2022, Kelchner noted. Minor changes were made based on feedback from riders and the ACJA.
Overall, more than 12,000 passengers rode the jitneys in 2022, with the Boardwalk route proving far more popular than the downtown service. During a status report last August, the city announced that the Boardwalk route was attracting about 150 passengers a day through late July. The downtown route, though, was carrying an average of only 21 daily riders through late July.
The vast majority of riders were tourists, young families, teenagers and seasonal Boardwalk employees using the service to commute to and from work, Kelchner said.
For 2023, the city will have a “primary Evening Route” serving 55th Street to Battersea Road. There will also be an “optional Morning Route” serving Asbury Avenue along the entire length of the island, according to Kelchner’s memo.
“Upon award, the Evening Route will be solidified and the Morning Route may be implemented at any time with the issuance of a purchase order,” he wrote of the jitney contract.
The contract with the ACJA is broken into two parts for a total of $67,825. The city will pay the ACJA $55,825 for the evening route and an additional $12,000 for the optional morning route if it is implemented, Kelchner’s memo says.
“The contract also provides the City the flexibility to alter routes, the number of jitneys in service on a given day and/or service times as needed,” Kelchner said.
The impetus for the new jitney service was a 2019 economic development study that recommended more public transportation in Ocean City.