Jitneys are no longer permitted to provide transportation to and from Atlantic City International Airport.
The South Jersey Transportation Authority, which operates the airport, is revoking its permit to the Atlantic City Jitney Association, SJTA spokesman Kevin Rehmann said Thursday afternoon. Shuttles sitting outside the airport awaiting arriving flights Thursday were asked to leave, he said.
The SJTA’s decision, which will be solidified in a forthcoming letter to the association, follows a cease-and-desist order issued by the Federal Transit Administration earlier this week. The FTA has ordered the jitney association to halt all charter services, arguing that because the association received federal funding for part of its fleet, it cannot engage in charters.
The jitneys had a one-year permit expiring in August to provide ground transportation at the airport. The shuttles have been at the airport for all arriving flights, offering $10 fares to Atlantic City. Trips back to the airport had to be prearranged and cost $15, according to the association’s website.
That qualifies as charter service, the SJTA’s Toms River-based attorneys from Gilmore & Monahan said Thursday. The SJTA was only made aware of the FTA’s ruling when a reporter from The Press of Atlantic City inquired about the order’s impact on the airport. The permit the association had from the SJTA requires compliance with all state and federal laws.
“Nobody was aware of it here. Once we’re made aware of it, we have to react,” Rehmann said, adding that the association will be able to reapply for a permit if it successfully appeals the FTA ruling.
Jitney association President Tom Woodruff told The Press on Wednesday that the association had no plans to modify its service based on the ruling, arguing that while FTA regulations might apply to the 100 vehicles purchased with grant money, they should not apply to the 90 vehicles the association purchased on its own. Far fewer than 90 vehicles provide the charter service in question, including transportation to weddings and parties, he said.
Reached Thursday, however, Woodruff said the association was contacted by the SJTA and had pulled its vehicles from airport operations. The association is in the process of clarifying the extent of the cease-and-desist order with the FTA, in the hope that it was never meant to apply to the airport permit.
“We want to make sure we’re totally compliant,” Woodruff said. “We have a call into the FTA, and we’re looking for clarification.”
FTA representatives did not return calls from The Press. The federal authority’s order followed a complaint by Five Mile Beach Electric Railway Co., a competing public transportation service in Cape May County.
Thursday’s decision will undoubtedly make public transportation to and from the airport more expensive. Rehmann estimated that the 13-mile cab ride between the airport and Atlantic City runs about $27. The SJTA has struggled to find companies interested in offering ground transportation shuttle service.
The jitneys temporarily filled a gap at the airport after Tropiano Airport Shuttle Service pulled out of its contract with the authority. The SJTA then issued a yearlong permit to the jitneys after several requests for proposals garnered no other interested vendors.
It remains unclear whether the FTA’s order could affect any other services offered by the jitneys. The order qualifies charter service as “demand response service” to individuals, rather than a regularly scheduled route. The SJTA has interpreted the order to include the jitneys’ airport service as charter service.
A new jitney route is expected to begin Memorial Day weekend between Avalon and Stone Harbor. Avalon Chamber of Commerce President John O’Dea said he became aware of the cease-and-desist order Wednesday and isn’t clear on what it means for the new route.
“Honestly, I’m just not sure,” he said. “It has to be looked at.”
In addition to several regularly scheduled routes in Atlantic City, the jitneys also operate in Sea Isle City in the summer. Mayor Len Desiderio could not be reached Thursday to address whether the FTA order will affect that service.
Contact Jennifer Bogdan:
Follow @ACPressJennifer on Twitter