The Atlantic City Jitney Association and the Federal Transit Administration have reached a verbal agreement allowing the shuttles to resume paid operations at Atlantic City International Airport.
Vehicles purchased without federal grant money — about half of the association’s fleet of 190 vehicles — can also continue to provide charter services without issue, the parties have also clarified, said Keith Davis, an attorney for the Jitney Association.
The FTA issued a cease-and-desist order to the Jitney Association last week, calling on the green and white omnibuses to stop providing charter service to weddings, parties and sporting events with vehicles purchased through federal grants.
The South Jersey Transportation Authority, which operates the airport, then planned to revoke its permit to the association, interpreting the order as applicable to the shuttle service the jitneys provide at the airport. Instead, the parties later agreed to continue the service free of charge, believing that change would allow compliance with the federal order.
Davis said he spoke with the FTA on Wednesday and clarified that the order applies only to federally funded vehicles, as federal regulations forbid competition against charter services by recipients of federal financial assistance. The parties also clarified that airport shuttle service is not considered charter service and can be provided by the entire association fleet. The FTA is expected to provide written clarification of the order, he said.
“As we discussed today, to the extent that the ACJA is providing charter services to third parties, the ACJA shall not use any of the 100 buses purchased with federal funds for charter operations,” Davis wrote to the FTA in a letter provided to The Press of Atlantic City. “Such charter services will only be provided by utilizing the remaining 90 buses in ACJA’s fleet, which were purchased exclusively with private funds and no federal funds.”
The FTA’s recent decision follows a complaint made last year by Five Mile Beach Electric Railway Co., which offers public transportation in Cape May County shore towns where the jitneys have recently started expanding their business. Five Mile owner Richard Adelizzi said he filed the complaint because the jitneys were hurting his business and he believed they were operating outside their jurisdiction.
In addition to several planned routes in Atlantic City, a new jitney route is expected to begin Memorial Day weekend between Avalon and Stone Harbor. The jitneys also operate in Sea Isle City.
“I think there was just a misunderstanding between everyone,” Davis said. “Everything is submitted on paper to the FTA, and you don’t really have an opportunity to interact with staff before they make their decision. We were able to clarify the situation for them so they could have the understanding.”
SJTA spokesman Kevin Rehmann said the authority’s attorneys spoke with Davis Wednesday afternoon and the jitneys were allowed to resume charging for service as of 6 p.m. Wednesday. Jitneys offer $10 fares to Atlantic City without a reservation, while return trips have to be prearranged.
Now, however, to comply with regulations ensuring that the airport service does not fall into the category of charter service, the jitneys will establish a fixed airport shuttle route running on a regular schedule, Davis’ letter states.
Taxis also provide transportation to and from the airport. Their rates run about $27 to $36 and are set by municipal ordinances.
Jitney Association President Tom Woodruff said he believed the confusion developed because people outside the area don’t have an understanding of what a jitney is and how the association is set up. He said while the transportation service the jitneys provide at the airport isn’t necessarily the most profitable route, the association wants to maintain it.
“Our feeling is that if someone takes a jitney from the airport when they get to Atlantic City, then when they get to Atlantic City they’ll know what a jitney is and use it,” Woodruff said.
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