Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 34
 
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
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Princeton Borough’s FreeB Jitney Program Increases Ridership, Ad Blitz Coming

Dilshanie Perera

When Borough Council moved to approve the August 12 bill list at last Tuesday’s Council meeting, a question was voiced about spending $11,295 on FreeB jitney bus marketing services from Maya Marketing. Regarding an extended advertising campaign, Administrator Robert Bruschi reported that “the whole program is ready to launch,” and that it surely will be a “big hoopla,” but that they are holding off on the “media blitz” until early September.

The FreeB jitney bus transports commuters from various locations in Princeton Borough to the Dinky Station and back again.

Despite the delay in the next wave of the jitney’s marketing campaign until residents and students return from vacation, Mr. Bruschi reported that ridership on the jitney had increased to 400 passengers during its third month of operation, up from the 150 and 300 passengers who rode the bus during its first two months of availability.

The pilot program for the jitney bus was launched in mid-April of this year, and was enabled through an agreement with Princeton University, which is covering the cost until the Borough receives its permanent vehicle and funding.

A permanent bus will be given to the Borough from New Jersey Transit as part of a three-year grant to fund service for increased public transportation to the Dinky station during peak commuter hours. The bus is expected to be delivered at the end of this month.

For now, the pilot program is allowing the Borough to analyze the jitney’s route, stops, and ridership patterns. The service, which is coordinated with the Dinky’s schedule, and the university’s shuttle routes, runs Monday through Friday from 5:30 to 9 a.m. and from 5:30 to 9 p.m.

Mr. Bruschi noted that “this trial period has been a great opportunity to operate the system and receive input from local residents on how the service can be improved so that we are prepared for the full launch,” adding that “both residents and local community organizations have encouraged extended service, which could become a future possibility if funding was secured from an outside party to subsidize the grant from NJ Transit.”

“The focus of the advertising for the jitney is very public service announcement (PSA) oriented, and is specifically targeted toward the commuter market,” said Teri McIntire of Maya Marketing, adding that New Jersey Transit, the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association (TMA), and Princeton University have “been very helpful” in assisting in the advertising process.

Spanish language advertisements have recently been printed and will be posted around town, distributed through community programs, and handed out by volunteers as part of the next wave of advertising about the jitney, Ms. McIntire noted.

Initial reactions to the jitney bus have ranged from tentative to enthusiastic. During the last Borough meeting, Council member Andrew Koontz cautioned that the jitney “went through this year as a trial run,” and added that “if the FreeB doesn’t work, we have to be prepared to say that.”

Others see it as an opportunity for Princeton Borough to become more environmentally savvy. Kim Jackson, the director of Transportation and Parking Services for Princeton University said that the university is “excited at the prospect of further integration of the University Tiger Transit routes with the FreeB service, where together our synergies will continue to reduce traffic congestion, provide additional commuter options, and have a positive impact on the environment.”

Sandra Brillhart, executive director of TMA, echoed Ms. Jackson’s sentiments, saying, “Public transportation reduces energy consumption, saves money, and reduces traffic congestion. Taking the FreeB and the train to work instead of driving is one of the most significant things people can do to reduce their carbon footprint.”

Borough Council member Barbara Trelstad’s reaction to the jitney bus service can be found in the Mailbox section of this week’s issue of the Town Topics.

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