Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 35
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
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Proposed Borough Shuttle Has Funding, but Vehicle Delay Keeps Project From Rolling

Matthew Hersh

A proposed commuter shuttle that would loop around key points throughout the Borough and drop off passengers at New Jersey Transit's Dinky station will likely go into effect sometime in mid-2008, Borough officials say, putting the project about a year behind schedule.

The hold-up, first announced publicly in February of this year, was apparently due to a delay in the delivery of vehicles, said Borough administrator Robert Bruschi. "We really thought this was going to happen in the first quarter of 2007," he said.

The launch of a shuttle has been highly anticipated by Borough officials, who hope that one day a comprehensive jitney system will offset the growing number of cars that pass in and out of the Borough. The proposed $60,000 jitney, benefiting from a three-year partial subsidy from New Jersey Transit, would be free for riders and would operate in 20-minute intervals in a loop around Princeton Borough, hitting points along Nassau and Wiggins streets, as well as the Dinky Station; it would primarily cater to commuter needs. The subsidy is $30,000 for the first year, $20,000 the second, year, and $10,000 the third.

Mr. Bruschi originally delivered the jitney concept to members of the circulation subcommittee of the Regional Planning Board of Princeton in February, as well as to representatives from Princeton Regional Schools, Princeton University, Rider University, and Princeton HealthCare System. The proposed shuttle, which could ultimately operate Monday through Friday, from 5:45 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and on Saturday, from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., would be launched following an informational campaign that would include a mailing to all Borough residents, Mr. Bruschi said.

In the beginning, however, only the essence of the grant would be in effect, with commuters being shuttled to and from the Dinky station during the morning and afternoon rush. In the first year, the New Jersey Transit subsidy will cover about half of the Borough's expenses to run that portion of the program, with the remainder of the funding coming out of the Borough's operating budget. There had been monies earmarked in the 2007 budget for the program. An expanded, Monday through Saturday system, Mr. Bruschi said, would end up costing about $150,000 per year. The Borough will also likely "tune up" its proposal to service providers to calculate costs for managing the program so the municipality would be prepared, from a budgetary outlook, to implement the program in 2008. While the New Jersey Transit subsidy dictates that the shuttle be used in the Borough only during peak commuter hours, Mr. Bruschi indicated that an expanded future service could include exterior destinations, like the Princeton Shopping Center and Princeton Community Village. However, he said that the ride needs to stay brief to maximize ridership. "Nobody's going to get on the jitney for a 45-minute ride to the station, so we've got to keep it brief." Initial estimates indicate that the shuttle would take about 20 minutes to complete its entire route.

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