Save the Shuttles

Nov 01, 2017

To the Editor:

When I was 15 years old I was already cleaning a bar in Ship Bottom. Many mornings I would wake up early and ride my bike to clean it because I had to have it done before my other job started. I grew up in the restaurant and bar business in Philadelphia, working for my family.

By the time I was 17, 18, I was cleaning two restaurants in Beach Haven and one in Ship Bottom every day before my other job started, and I did not own a car. I borrowed a vehicle from a friend when it was available, rode my bike, hitchhiked which wasn’t even legal, but I accomplished it.

I also took the Jolly Trolley, which was the only bus that serviced the Island, but it was very, very unreliable. One time it was pouring rain and I was walking from Brant Beach to Beach Haven, waiting for it, and it never came. I called them later that day and they simply explained that their shuttle was rented out for a wedding.

We truly need a reliable transportation system on Long Beach Island as it would give so much more opportunity to all those hardworking young people to succeed, which in return will help all the local restaurants, amusement parks, stores, etc. to thrive, making LBI one of the most attractive beach destinations in the country and raising LBI homes’ value at the same time. It’s sort of a chain reaction, and it is in Long Beach Township voters’ power to decide now how it will play out. It’s a definite win-win situation for all of us, the LBI residents, to vote “yes” to save the shuttles.

Also, when I was just finished with college at Drexel University, which I paid for with all that cleaning, I started my business full time. I had a bunch of 15- and 16-year-old girls from the mainland working for me. Most were great, but as I got to know them, I found out their home lives were far from ideal. My biggest problem was getting them transportation to work.

As I got to know them, two stood out. Both were not being raised by their parents. Cindy (not her real name) was being raised by a male neighbor. The new graduated driver’s licenses were coming out at that time, imposing more restrictions on young drivers. I asked Cindy what she thought about it. She bluntly said, “It’s just going to create more drug addicts.”

I was a little surprised and curious. “Why?”

She responded, “I have a choice each weekend to go in the woods to drink, do drugs and get pregnant or stay in because I have to get up and work for you in the morning. It’s just going to make it harder for the people like me to make the right choice. It makes it harder to get to work but very easy just to ‘stay in the woods.’”

Ocean County now has one of the highest drug overdose deaths in the state. When I read about that, I think of Cindy. When I see the LBI shuttle, I think of Cindy. She had a plan: “I am going to volunteer at the Rutgers University Marine Field Station. I am going to get a scholarship to Rutgers, and I am going to become a marine biologist.”

From what I’ve heard years later, she is a marine biologist and did everything she said. 

Long Beach Township Police Lt. Paul Vereb is a major proponent for the LBI shuttle. He had researched other beach communities to make the buses more effective and safer for us. I applaud Long Beach Township Mayor Mancini and Commissioner Joseph P. Lattanzi for having the foresight and courage to “build it and they will come.” I feel it is one of the best things to come to this Island in years. I’m sure, years from now, we are going to hear people say, “I met my spouse on the LBI shuttle” and other stories like that. Every town on the Island should be asking, “How can we help you succeed?”

I have clients who are elderly, who are legally blind and can’t drive. If you are young and have a job, calling Uber may not be an option because if you have a four-hour shift, most of your money is going to Uber. If your car breaks down, if you are out on a boat with friends, they (the shuttles) can drop you off anywhere on the Island and you have a way home.

Vote yes for Cindy. Vote yes for the next go-getters. Vote yes for the children having transportation to Lifeguard in Training programs who might save you later. If you own a rental property, it doesn’t matter where your house is located now. Voting yes is to keep the buses. Voting no means they will most likely go away. Tell your friends and family members that are residents of Long Beach Township to vote yes. Voting yes is for the riders to pay for themselves.

Kevin M. Stretch

Brant Beach

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