Long Beach Township Asks Voters to Approve Option for Shuttle Fare

Placing the Funding Burden on Taxpayers ‘Not a Viable Option,’ Says Commissioner
Oct 11, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

This past weekend was the last of the season for the shuttle buses that run the length of Long Beach Island. According to Long Beach Township Commissioner Joseph Lattanzi, who devised the program, ridership exceeded 110,000 this summer: a sign of the service’s popularity, but also an indication that it must expand.

Riding the buses is currently free, but as Lattanzi explained, the introduction of a nominal user fare seems more and more a necessity if the program is to continue, which means adding more, and bigger, buses.

Lattanzi, township Mayor Joseph Mancini and Commissioner Ralph Bayard are therefore asking that residents support the upcoming referendum, on Nov. 7, to allow the township the option to charge a small fee for those who ride the shuttle.

“I want people to understand that the system was designed with a certain capacity, and that’s been exceeded by two to three times,” said Lattanzi. “We need the flexibility, and we need more financial support.”

Currently, the service is funded by grants, advertising revenue from bus wraps and signs inside the trolleys, and $10,000 annually from each municipality on LBI. These funding sources will continue, but they’re not enough because of the program’s success and its need to grow.

Passengers have also been asked to donate to ride the buses, and while Lattanzi would prefer to keep the fee voluntary, donations have been much too light.

Should the referendum pass, a cost structure would likely be implemented for shuttle riders, excluding children, and perhaps even an escalating cost as the night goes on – but all in all, just a few dollars per person. “It will likely be a very nominal fee,” Lattanzi remarked.

A rider fare, he emphasized, would ensure that the funding costs aren’t passed on via taxes. “I don’t want this to be a burden on the taxpayers,” he said. “That’s not a viable option.”

Lattanzi developed the shuttle program a few years ago in partnership with the LBI Chamber of Commerce and the other Island municipalities, and with support from now-retired Capt. Paul Vereb of the township police department.

As the commissioner previously stated, “This is an extremely successful program that runs very efficiently,” and showcases cooperation among all the Island municipalities. The shuttle service reduces cars on the road in the summer, including drunken drivers, and helps boost commerce. And the buses can be used in emergencies to transport people off the Island.

In a post-Sandy perspective, Lattanzi believes the program really is “a tribute to forward thinking” in the township.

In the summer and early fall months, the buses run north to Barnegat Light and south to Holgate. To ride the shuttles, riders are asked to stand along Long Beach Boulevard and wave one down. The issue this past summer, though, was that buses that were already full would have to pass by those waiting.

“We’re clearly running over capacity,” Lattanzi remarked. “I will not expand without more funding.”

— Juliet Kaszas-Hoch

juliet@thesandpaper.net

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