Avalon and Stone Harbor may be the next shore towns to start a regular jitney service after seeing how popular the small buses have been in Sea Isle City.
Officials from both towns expect to meet this week to develop a plan with the Atlantic City Jitney Association that would bring the service to Seven Mile Island, possibly by the end of July or August.
“It’s really successful in Sea Isle,” said Tom Hand, owner of Fred’s Tavern in Stone Harbor. “There’s no reason they can’t work here.”
The jitneys have run in Atlantic City since 1915, but Sea Isle started licensing them in May to ease traffic congestion and provide reliable transportation on the island.
“The jitneys in Sea Isle have been a great success for the jitneys and Sea Isle,” said Tom Woodruff, president of the jitney association.
Like their barrier-island neighbor to the north, Avalon and Stone Harbor have several bars and restaurants that attract thousands of people on summer weekends, but transportation has always been a problem.
There are few taxis and limousines available in the area, and they are expensive compared with a $2 one-way jitney fare.
“How are you going to accommodate 3,000 people with 10 taxicabs?” said John Tracy, general manager of The Whitebrier Restaurant in Avalon. “You can’t.”
The boroughs also have a pub trolley that runs from July to Labor Day on weekend nights, but passengers might have to wait 45 minutes for a ride instead of 10 or 15 minutes if there are several jitneys running.
As a result, some people walk long distances to get home at the end of the night, or resort to drunken driving.
Tracy’s family also owns The Princeton bar and restaurant, which has offered its own shuttle service, but he said that can be a burden for an individual business.
“It’s expensive for us to run them with insurance and all that,” he said.
Avalon and Stone Harbor need to adopt ordinances regulating jitneys and issue licenses before they start operating. Hand said he hoped they could be running in July, but Scott Wahl, public information officer for both towns, said those discussions were in the infancy stage.
“Even if it would come up at the next meeting, which it’s not, you’d be looking at August at the earliest,” he said.
Woodruff added that more planning needs to go into jitney routes in Avalon and Stone Harbor than in Sea Isle.
In Sea Isle, almost all the most popular bars are in the center of the thin island, so the jitneys are easily accessible and typically take people exactly where they need to go.
Avalon and Stone Harbor are more spread out, with an additional mile of roadway to travel and popular establishments that are miles apart.
Woodruff did say that there would be more than enough jitneys to go around, though. The association has 190, and on any given day half the fleet is off, while only a dozen run on peak days in Sea Isle.
“If we put more we’d be creating our own traffic jams,” he said.
Tracy said he would love to even see the jitneys run from Stone Harbor through Avalon into Sea Isle so people can travel between the islands easier.
On Tuesdays, for example, The Windrift Hotel in Avalon has its popular Wing Night promotion, and Shenanigan’s in Sea Isle has its popular Reggae Night.
“I wonder how many people have made that drive drunk,” he said.
Bridget Parks and Jamie McFadden both live in Sea Isle and work as servers at The Whitebrier, and they said they would love to have the jitneys run in Avalon and Stone Harbor as well.
McFadden said he sometimes takes the jitney in Sea Isle to the southern end of the island and then walks across the Townsend Inlet Bridge to get to Avalon. Parks added that her friends chain their bicycles up at the end of the bridge and then take the jitney to get to the bars in Sea Isle.
“It’s great,” Parks said. “I don’t know why they didn’t have them before.”
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