ATLANTIC CITY — Like he does most afternoons, Edward Selva, 26, waited for the jitney near Columbia Avenue to pick him up for work. The Lower Chelsea stop is convenient for the 26-year-old food service worker, who lives nearby.
Selva has lived in the city all his life, and his critiques about the transit system are few.
“Just being more careful, because they be speeding,” he said as he rode the jitney to Harrah’s Resort one weekday in May.
Selva, like many area residents, had differing opinions on how well-connected Atlantic City is. It depends on whom you ask and what you mean.
The city of nearly 40,000 is home to 48 blocks, 103 miles of roadway, 4 miles of boardwalk, 13 bus routes and one train, and people use a variety of methods to get to and from, and in and out of, the city.
Situated on the north end of 8-mile-long Absecon Island, three bridges and the Atlantic City Expressway connect Atlantic City to the rest of Atlantic County. To the south of the gambling mecca, along Atlantic and Ventnor avenues, are Ventnor, Margate and Longport.
Liz Carasick, who lost her driver’s license, has been using NJ Transit buses for everything from going to work to going grocery shopping. She said she can easily find her way around the city.
“For Atlantic City, there’s plenty (of public transportation), because if you don’t take NJ Transit you can take the jitneys,” said the 35-year-old city resident.
Getting out of the city, Carasick said, can be more challenging as the buses don’t run as frequently as she would like.
Others agreed. In fact, transportation is identified as one of the best ways to attract new residents and visitors to Atlantic City in the state’s transition report on Atlantic City, co-authored by Jim Johnson, special counsel to Gov. Phil Murphy. In it, Johnson said the city needed to develop strategies to enhance access to the city to boost the economy.
“Atlantic City can become a vibrant place to live, work and play. It currently has limited train and air service. The city and region could prosper if the train ride between Atlantic City and Philadelphia took less time and local commuters had a richer set of options,” the report states.
It said addressing the transit issue would make the city “more attractive as a home for commuters and a much more likely option for customers seeking entertainment.”
The city is the home of one end of the Atlantic City Rail Line between the shore and Philadelphia operated by NJ Transit, which just recently reopened after being shut down for months for improvements. It also is just miles away from Atlantic City International Airport in Egg Harbor Township, operated by the South Jersey Transportation Authority.
A new train schedule unveiled in May shows a focus on daytime ridership in and out of the city. Meanwhile, state and local officials are looking into a way to enhance travel at the underutilized airport, which has only one commercial airline, Spirit. State Senate President Steve Sweeney recently suggested the airport be taken over by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to alleviate pressure from major airports in the state. Local officials think it could help bring more tourists to the area.
Atlantic City’s Director of Planning and Development Barbara Wooley-Dillon said many projects have been completed or are underway to address transportation inside the city, such as the creation of a transit hub centered on the convention center.
“We are extremely fortunate to have the NJ Transit trains up and running again,” Wooley-Dillon said. “When they relocated the bus terminal within a block of the rail terminal, it’s a much better link.”
During a recent interview at her office in City Hall, which offers panoramic views of the northeastern end of the island, Wooley-Dillon said paving projects were recently completed along previously murky sections of Atlantic Avenue that would have left a car’s suspension in disrepair. The city will soon complete a safety study to make the corridor safer for pedestrians, she said.
Atlantic City is looking into both a bike share and a car share program to improve access. At last month’s meeting, City Council approved a request for proposals for the installation of electric vehicle infrastructure and a service provider and a $336,037 contract for construction of a bikeway along Atlantic and Ohio avenues.
Walking and biking are popular options for residents to commute within the city, and Wooley-Dillon admitted the city’s bike map needs an update.
Of course, all improvements cost money, and the South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization and New Jersey Department of Transportation have helped provide funding for the city to get even more done.
This year, the NJDOT announced a $515,531 grant for paving of Atlantic and Fairmount avenues. Paving along Ventnor Avenue was funded through a $544,715 state grant.
John Mele, the city engineer, said there is more than $844,000 in federal funding from 2014 going toward the Atlantic Avenue streetscape project.
“We’re making some progress,” Mele said. “It’s been a challenge with all the different needs of the city to coordinate these improvements.”
Wooley-Dillon said having the state involved in the process has been a tremendous help in terms of coordinating projects and ideas.
“We have the ear, the eye and the hand of the state helping the city,” she said.
Staff Writer Colt Shaw contributed to this report.
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