The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Jitneys v Free Shuttles in Atlantic City

TRANSPORTATION; $2 Jitneys and Free Shuttle Square Off in Atlantic City

Published: November 12, 2006

JOHN TARISTANO JR. looked out the jitney as it trolled Pacific Avenue on a recent Saturday while sunset glistened off the glass towers in the heart of the casino district. It was a view of a seaside strip built on dreams of striking it rich, but Mr. Taristano, a jitney driver for five years who was taking a ride this time, was checking the street corners for the people who make so many one-armed bandits hum.

''At this hour, these corners should have people everywhere, and there's not a person in sight,'' he said as the jitney passed a vacant stop. ''We should be seeing them packed in four deep.''

Mr. Taristano is one of 190 owner-operators who belong to the Atlantic City Jitney Association, an independent body that has provided the city's public transportation since 1915. But now, because of a free shuttle instituted by Harrah's Entertainment, they fear that they will lose their livelihood and that the city will lose a part of its identity as ingrained as saltwater taffy and Boardwalk romances.

The association runs 13-passenger sky-blue buses that charge passengers $2 each and resemble the shuttles serving airport rental-car lots. But in mid-October, Harrah's began running its free shuttle service, using 30-passenger buses, between the four casinos it owns along a two-mile stretch of Pacific Avenue. Harrah's operates a similar service in Las Vegas and decided to add it here after acquiring Bally's and Caesars. The Showboat is another of the company's Atlantic City casinos.

The last time a casino tried its own shuttle service here was eight years ago, when the Trump casinos briefly ran one between the two properties.

Jitney drivers fear that Harrah's will drive independent transportation providers out of business. The free shuttle serves four of the city's 12 casinos and can also drop off patrons near those Harrah's does not own.

The Jitney Association says member revenues along the route that runs between Harrah's properties are down as much as 35 percent since the free shuttle began.

''It's a small town,'' said Emmanuel Mathioudakis, the president of the association, which regulates members' routes and schedules. ''We depend on the casinos and their customers.''

If Harrah's continues to run the shuttle, Mr. Mathioudakis said, jitney service will have to be cut back, hurting those who rely on the jitneys to get to work in the casinos.

But Harrah's contends that those passengers are the ridership that the jitney drivers will continue to serve. John Payne, the regional president for Harrah's who oversees Atlantic City operations, said the company's position was that ''the jitneys do a great job of providing public transportation for Atlantic City,'' but that the Harrah's shuttle was not public transportation.

The use of jitneys harks back to the city's early days as a seaside resort dedicated to the Victorian-era idea that fresh air and sunshine promote well-being.

''The jitneys are an iconic part of Atlantic City,'' said Bryant Simon, a history professor at Temple University who wrote a book about the town, ''Boardwalk of Dreams: Atlantic City and the Fate of Urban America'' (Oxford University Press, 2004). ''I don't know of any other city that has an independent bus service like that.''

Harrah's approached the Jitney Association about running the free shuttle, Mr. Payne said, but negotiations broke down. Harrah's says the Jitney Association made a bid that was $1 million more than the $800,000 it will cost Harrah's to run its shuttle.

But Mr. Mathioudakis said the Jitney Association never formally submitted a bid.

Both sides say they are willing to work to find a way to meet the twin demands of customer service and tradition. Until then, drivers like Mr. Taristano will continue to hope that their way of life is not going to disappear like the Miss America Pageant.

''If this goes away, I don't know what I would do,'' said Mr. Taristano, whose father was a jitney driver. ''I'm hoping that Harrah's will work with us, and not crush us.''

The articles are posted solely for educational purposes to raise awareness of transportation issues. I claim no authorship, nor do I profit from this website. Where known, all original authors and/or source publisher have been noted in the post. As this is a knowledge base, rather than a blog, I have reproduced the articles in full to allow for complete reader understanding and allow for comprehensive text searching...see custom google search engine at the top of the page. If you have concerns about the inclusion of a specific article, please email for a speedy resolution.