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Borough Jitney Takes an Early Spin

Matthew Hersh

Despite forecasts from as late as fall 2007 that a planned Borough wide jitney system would not get off the ground until late this year, Borough Mayor Mildred Trotman announced Tuesday that the free jitney bus service will go into effect by April.

While the free shuttle’s commencement comes from a three-year partial subsidy from New Jersey Transit, the $150,000 jitney’s early launch is being largely credited to an agreement with Princeton University that aims to cover the cost of the program until the Borough receives its permanent vehicle and funding from New Jersey Transit, still slated to come through by the end of the year.

The free shuttle is expected to operate Monday through Friday during peak commuter hours, from 5:30 to 9 a.m., and 5:30 to 9 p.m., and will be timed with New Jersey Transit’s Dinky schedule. The service will also have direct connections with Princeton University’s revamped shuttle system, which was previewed for members of the Regional Planning Board of Princeton Thursday night.

The shuttle route will begin at Borough Hall during the morning rush, and at the Dinky Station on University Place in the evening. According to an abstract released by the mayor’s office, the 20-minute loop will run clockwise from the Dinky station to Borough Hall, and then along Bayard Lane/Route 206, Paul Robeson Place-Wiggins Street-Hamilton Avenue corridor, Harrison Street, Nassau Street, Mercer Street, Alexander Street, University Place, and then returning to the Dinky Station.

Permanent stops will be marked along that route, including those planned for the Suzanne Patterson Center and the Princeton Public Library. Riders can flag down the jitney at any point along its route.

A connection to the Princeton Shopping Center has not yet been established, mostly because the shuttle’s funding is Borough-specific, and the Shopping Center is located in the Township. However, at a circulation subcommittee of the Regional Planning Board of Princeton in February 2007, Borough administrator Robert Bruschi indicated that increased stops could be established in the future. He also said that the no fee option was “crucial” to gaining ridership. At the time, there appeared to be a willingness to expand the shuttle’s route to the University Medical Center at Princeton, either in its current location or its future Plainsboro site, but for now, the planned jitney will follow the 20-minute loop.

Calling the jitney an “important transportation link in the Borough,” Ms. Trotman thanked Princeton University, and encouraged residents to “ride this alternative transportation service.”

University Vice President and Secretary Robert Durkee echoed Ms. Trotman’s sentiment, saying that a town-wide shuttle service could help to promote travel to and from the area.

The Borough’s $150,000 grant will offset the cost of the 22-passenger shuttle and fund three years of operation during peak commuter hours. The grant stipulates that the jitney provide a link to the Dinky train station. The Borough is expected to contract with an outside provider in operating the service prior to receiving its bus. Currently, the University’s shuttle system is managed by Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association, with equipment supplied through A-1 Limousine.

Mr. Bruschi said that the Borough would collect community feedback during the jitney’s initial operating period, preparing the municipality for a full launch, which could have expanded hours of service.

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