AVALON - The green-and-white jitneys that run throughout Atlantic City started operating on Seven Mile Island this weekend, the third barrier island where the small buses will be making regular routes.
After seeing the success of jitney service in Sea Isle City last year, business owners and local officials worked during the off-season to bring them to Avalon and Stone Harbor. They finally rolled in on Friday and will operate through Labor Day.
"It was well worth it," said Tom Hand, owner of Fred's Tavern in Stone Harbor. "People are really excited, and the streets are safer."
The jitneys run daily in Atlantic City year-round, but they became popular during the summer in Sea Isle City as a solution for transporting the thousands of visitors and residents to the downtown. Avalon and Stone Harbor are hoping to see the same thing.
"I heard they were good," said John Tracy, general manager of the Whitebrier Restaurant in Avalon, who said this weekend was one of their busiest ever.
The Atlantic City Jitney Association also tried operating jitneys in Ocean City once, but the layout of the city and its traffic lights posed logistical problems, association President Tom Woodruff said.
For similar reasons, there were initially some concerns about how practical the jitneys would be in Avalon and Stone Harbor.
"We were concerned about the length of ride," Woodruff said. "Obviously, we want people outside having fun."
The route they decided on for this summer is mainly along Dune Drive/Second Avenue and Ocean Drive, starting at 20th Street in Avalon and going down to 96th Street in Stone Harbor.
Woodruff said there were about eight to 10 jitneys operating on Seven Mile Island at their peak this weekend. They started at about 4 p.m. and ran as late as 4 a.m.
The plan is for them to operate on weekends through June, then daily starting in July through Labor Day.
"Residents are really embracing it and excited to have it," Woodruff said. "We're always looking at other opportunities to grow and assist and be a part of the community."
There are about 190 of the 13-passenger jitneys in the association's fleet, with about 90 running each day in Atlantic City. That leaves more than enough to operate in Sea Isle City and now Seven Mile Island, and it's good news for drivers looking for more work.
Woodruff said other communities have expressed interest in the jitneys, including parts of Long Beach Island, North Wildwood and Strathmere.
He said all of them could potentially be added in the future, but there are limits on how far the buses can travel. They operate on compressed natural gas, and their only fueling station is on Delilah Road in Egg Harbor Township.
That also limits how far they can travel on the islands. Hand said he would like to see the route expanded to the entirety of Seven Mile Island, but said he was certainly not complaining.
"There's definitely room for improvement," he said, "but I'm very happy with it so far."
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To learn more
on the jitney
service, see 7milejitney