Long Beach Township Voters to Weigh in on Possible Future Shuttle Fare
Voters in Long Beach Township will see candidates names, two state questions and one local question on the ballot next month. The latter asks residents to weigh in on whether the municipality should be allowed to charge a fee to ride the seasonal shuttle buses, should this be necessary in the future.
The question in full is as follows: “Shall the Township of Long Beach be permitted to engage in the business of transportation, and, therefore, be authorized to charge fares to persons to use the existing municipal transportation system, as described in an ordinance of the Board of Commissioners of the Township of Long Beach entitled ‘An ordinance amending an ordinance entitled, “Code of the Township of Long Beach, County of Ocean, State of New Jersey, 1997” as the same in Chapter 195 pertains to the municipal transportation system,’ which was passed on April 4, 2016?”
During a recent town hall gathering of the seven candidates in contention for the three seats in the township governing body this fall, running mates Thomas Beaty, Danielle Hagler and Donald Myers praised the LBI Shuttle, but expressed concern about funding down the road. “I think all of us will agree it’s a great thing,” Hagler said of the service, but she, Beaty and Myers called for more transparency on current and future funding.
Last year the township was awarded a three-year $300,000 grant to help support the shuttle, and this is supplemented by $10,000 annual contributions from each Island municipality, as well advertisements in the form of bus wraps and signs inside the buses. Rider donations are also accepted and encouraged on the shuttles.
“We’ve made every effort to keep costs down,” township Commissioner Joseph Lattanzi, who established the shuttle service three years ago, said Monday. The program is voluntarily managed by municipal employees as well as members of the LBI Chamber of Commerce, who also work voluntarily to pursue advertising, which “significantly defrays the cost of running the shuttles,” he added.
The question – which Lattanzi believes needs to be framed with the benefits of the service in the forefront – “is how to fund this in two years after the grant is exhausted.” The options include securing additional grant money, asking for more financial assistance from the Island municipalities, or charging a nominal fee, which would likely exclude children under 16.
“We’re exploring all these options,” said the commissioner, who is hoping, especially given the success of the program, to continue to provide free transportation. “It would just be irresponsible not to have this funding mechanism in place should it become necessary.”
Lattanzi, who bought the first shuttle bus out of pocket, is excited by and proud of the program’s ever-increasing popularity, and believes “it’s proof of principle that we (all six LBI municipalities) can work together and get a project done.”
“We believe the LBI Shuttle is going to be a springboard for further discussions and positive movement toward consolidation of other services.”
Mayor Joseph Mancini said during last week’s candidates’ Q&A that the buses really “knocked down the door of shared services moving forward.”
— Juliet Kaszas-Hoch