The Millburn branch of the Maplewood Jitney is in danger of being cut.
Environmental Commission Chairwoman Jennifer Duckworth said there are just two regular riders and on average only one per day. Vice Chairman David Harrison called it “a failed experiment.”
“This particular route, this particular distance—it’s just not compelling enough,” said Commission member Andrew Chalnick.
The jitney has serviced Maplewood Township for over 12 years, taking residents to and from the Maplewood train station via three routes. This January, the Wyoming route was extended into Millburn. Millburn residents can catch the jitney at Glen Avenue and Cyprus Street as well as Wyoming Avenue and Maple Street.
The Maplewood Transportation Committee, which runs the jitney service, is considering getting rid of the two Millburn stops if changes aren’t made.
“One person a day is a waste of gas—and time on the driver’s part—to have this extra route,” said Transportation Committee Chairman Charlie Bibbins.
Bibbins cited the location of the jitney stops as among the many factors hurting the service. His committee gave two recommendations for stops, but due to safety concerns and complaints from Wyoming residents, neither was chosen.
"The police properly asked the people who lived there if it'd be alright to have the jitney parked there, and they did not want that," he said. “People didn’t understand it and didn’t take it seriously."
Bibbins said the spots eventually picked are either too far away from commuters or close enough to the Maplewood train station that it would be easier to walk there.
“Had they found something else closer to the initial ones, I think we would have had more people,” he said.
The program has been very successful in Maplewood. Bibbins said 340 people used the jitney on its best day this year. NJ Transit set up shuttle services in over 30 New Jersey towns, modeled after the Maplewood jitney and funded by federal grants.
Duckworth agreed that the current locations are inconvenient, but also saw many long-term benefits of taking the jitney. In addition to environmental benefits, it would free up parking spaces in the Maplewood lots and save each commuter $160 per year in parking fees, plus the cost of gas.
Millburn Mayor Sandra Haimoff said that she plans on recommending that the failing branch of an otherwise thriving jitney be disbanded. Bibbins, however, said that he is open to a counter-proposal.
“If the town can find better places to make the stops, we’re game,” he said.
Duckworth agreed that a route change, coupled with stronger publicity, might be able to save the jitney. She said that if residents knew how easy it was to take the jitney home—the Millburn stops are the first on the Wyoming route—they might be more inclined to use it.
“It’s not dead yet!” she said.