A Reader's Letter to the Council on the Jitney Situation


Via Email to:

Mayor Vahalla

Borough Council Members Dyas, Waldron, Manley, Weber, Cammarano and Morrison

Borough Administrator Boerth



                        Re: Continuation of the Jitney Bus Service


Dear Mr. Mayor, Council Members and Mr. Boerth:


I am writing to all of you with the hope that we can proceed with an energetic effort to maintain the jitney bus service on which many of our Borough residents depend.


I am among the 106 signers of the petition but had to be out of town last week and could not attend the Council meeting on November 2.  Fortunately, I was able to watch the MEtv recording of the meeting.


The most promising if temporary approach may be to seek agreement with New Jersey Transit to extend the current arrangement rather than return the bus at the end of December.  Councilman Morrison recommended this, and I would like to request an immediate effort to get such an extension, preferably for one year but for at least six months to give the Council and citizens an opportunity to review longer-term possibilities.  For the operating expense in early 2010, a number of options may exist. 


Councilman Morrison also recommended a citizens commission.  I support that and am willing to join it and offer some of my time toward a favorable long-term outcome.


A favorable outcome may involve any of the options that were mentioned at the November 2 meeting.  Broadly, I lean toward a user fee that would pay at least a portion of the operating costs.  The feasibility of that option was not discussed in any detail, although some quick calculations suggest that even a fee of one dollar per ride may suffice if New Jersey Transit provides a new bus, which apparently is its offer.

All other options should be considered, of course.  These may include the Metuchen Taxi possibility noted by the Mayor.  I am frankly dubious about that possibility; among other factors, it appears that no proposal or even an outline has been presented yet to the Council.


You heard at the November 2 meeting from residents who depend on the jitney.  I am partially dependent on it.  Typically, I bicycle to the train station.  In bad weather though, I rely on the jitney, perhaps as many as 60 business days annually.  Obviously, other residents are even more concerned about the prospect of an abrupt end to the service.  These include our high school students; although the jitney service was not expressly intended to transport them, we do need to consider the whole of our community to the extent we can-- and recognize that transportation alternatives to more automobiles is a challenge for every elected official and concerned citizen in our town.


In addition to the personal hardships that some residents will face in January if the jitney abruptly ends, we have the issue that several of the November 2 speakers clearly noted: the quality of life in Metuchen.  Obviously, the value of our residential properties connects with that.  The appeal of Metuchen rests in large part on the existence of transportation alternatives, and we must do everything we can to maintain the jitney as our link to the rail station.


Please let me know what I can do.  I would be pleased to hear from any of you who may want to respond to this letter; offer details about efforts to date; or invite me to assist on developing a positive outcome.  For example, although it may be within the general responsibilities of the Borough to contact the appropriate New Jersey Transit administrators, I am willing and interested in initiating or joining in such contact if it may be productive.  Again, it appears to me that rescission of the decision to return the bus next month is the first step, to give all of us time to develop a longer-term plan.


I want to note also that Barbara has served the Borough extremely well, including particularly those of us who have depended on her punctual rounds.  Alongside residents who depend on the jitney, the prospect of an end to the excellent service obviously impacts Barbara too. 


We must be energetic, creative and sensitive about working together toward a positive outcome.


Again, well said. Except you can not run from accounting for the money. Which is what will fund your goal. The Metuchen taxpayer funds the jitney not the Fed or the State. The state turned the jitney over to us. Now, couple that with a 10.2% unemployment rate; a 15% unemployment for Caucasian and African American males; and women becoming the sole household income combined with people borrowing on their dwindling equity lines to stay in their homes hoping for that better day. It is a survival situation.

So, right now, right now I do not think anyone of us can say I do have the an answer as to where the money is coming from to fund a dream, a goal or a hope. Supporting the family is the issue right now, not the Jitney and finding people jobs. After thatthen you can have your jitney. That's no dream.

While I don't have the answer with respect to where the money is coming from or what else to cut in order to continue the jitney, it should be noted that there are plenty of dollars being thrown around by the Fed and the State.

If our local leaders are not "at the table" with NJ Transit, and our station and services continue to erode, Metuchen will eventually be just like "anytown" NJ. The appeal for many folks who live here is they can commute to NYC. We need to find ways to improve our town, Main Street and our train station. While we have all seen real estate prices plummet, we have also seen a significant increase in folks appealing their tax assessment and rightly so. What I am saying is if the quality of life continues to erode, so will the town, real estate, etc. It will cascade. Now is the time to preserve what we have and improve upon what is not working. The notion to simply cut comes at a cost, today and in the future. Our elected officials need to step up on the larger issues, and the topic of transit and how it relates to our town should be at the top of their agenda.

Well said, and not said in jest. Now I have one question given the fact that we have a known budget cap of approximately $500K at this point to deal with.

What do you or anyone else propose to cut that would not bring the same reaction on that item you are proposing? What would you cut? Do you propose a cut to parks, recreation, or perhaps other senior citizen services or something else that will prevent my taxes from going up and remaining within the CAP? You,I and anyone else can go before Mayor and Council and make that proposal. The question is do you have it in you because you are going to face the other people who want to keep that item?

I think the truth that we all have to deal with is the days of saying money can be found are over. Now, maybe Christie can eliminate some or all of our required mandates and then we maybe able to find the money. I doubt he will end the CAP. Perhaps we can/should consider reducing library services to offset a jitney service?

One more point, how much longer does anyone think that these shuttle services will remain in this economy in other towns given how much worse shape they are in then Metuchen is?

When the Jitney was first proposed it was to align with the towns "Smart Growth" distinction and Transit Village earmark that was awarded to our community at the time.

The idea that we are stepping away from this commitment would further erode our towns distinction as an easily accessible commute to and from NYC.

Our leaders would best serve us if they took a serious look at how service from our town has eroded.

With NJ Transit's focus on building out the rail services both north and south of us, our train station has languished. It has not been renovated since the seventies, is in poor repair and is barely maintained. We as a community should insist on better service from NJ Transit as other communities do. We can look to the Shore lines, Midtown Express, Westfield, Rahway and the new Secaucus transfer station to see how a train station should be managed. Clearly other towns have managed to get the attention and funding from NJ Transit in order to improve and enhance the rail services from their respective communities.

Train service into NYC is no longer the 37 minute express it once was. On a good day the best commute you can expect into Penn NYC is 50 minutes. This once was considered a local, not an express train.

Our town has thrived as "commuter town". Our leaders need to preserve this key resource by being proactive with a multi-pronged approach. Presently there is no ongoing dialog with NJ Transit representing the commuters needs. This needs to change.

The issue goes beyond the Jitney. The notion that it only impacts 90 passengers is inappropriate. We have had inadequate parking for commuters for years.

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  • Fairness in People: Again, well said. Except you can not run from accounting read more
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  • Fairness in People: Well said, and not said in jest. Now I have read more
  • Long Standing Resident: When the Jitney was first proposed it was to align read more

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