WEST ORANGE, NJ — The township of West Orange has finally unveiled its long-anticipated sixth jitney route, which covers the Pleasantdale and Redwood neighborhoods with four stops on the way to and from either the Orange station or the Brick Church station.
The rout, which should be up and running sometime in August, will begin in the mornings at the intersection of Pleasant Valley Way and Hooper Avenue before continuing north along Pleasant Valley Way and stopping at the Wilshire Grand Hotel. From there it will move on to Woodland Avenue and stop at B’nai Shalom, then travel to another stop on Mississippi Avenue before ending up at either the Orange station or Brick Church station, depending on the time. At night the service will consist of the same stops, though the evening hours will feature six runs while the morning will contain four.
According to township engineer Leonard Lepore, the route was decided upon after months of studying maps and driving local roadways to see what worked best. At one point Lepore said he considered including train stations in Glen Ridge and Montclair, but decided against it after judging that the Orange and Brick Church stations offered better Midtown Direct lines and a quicker arrival time for the jitney. In the end, he said he felt the final route was the best option for commuters.
“I thought this route would be difficult to establish and provide a reasonable level of service,” Lepore told the West Orange Chronicle in a May 26 phone interview, referring to the fact that the route is farther from the train stations than previous routes. “But it seems to be working.”
Due to the large area the township wanted to cover with the Pleasantdale-Redwood line, Lepore said the route had to run through main streets instead of residential areas to save time. As a result, the township is establishing two park-and-ride locations to accommodate commuters who will be unable to easily walk to a particular stop. These locations will be free for anyone who displays a jitney placard in their vehicle, Mayor Robert Parisi told the Chronicle. Parisi said the township is still deciding how to distribute those free placards, but said residents will probably be able to pick them up at Town Hall.
One such park-and-ride spot, unanimously approved by the West Orange Township Council during its May 23 meeting, will be located at B’nai Shalom. According to the resolution establishing it, the spot will include 25 parking spaces on the east end of the synagogue’s parking lot. The township does not have to pay to license the spaces, though the resolution does stipulate that it will maintain liability insurance for the temple as well as repair and replace the lot’s lighting and ballast. West Orange will also plow and salt the parking lot when it snows, which Parisi said the township felt was the right thing to do.
“We wanted to help them out,” Parisi said of the snow services, which Lepore estimated will cost $6,000, in a May 25 phone interview. “Recognizing their willingness to support the community, we wanted to support them.”
The other park-and-ride area will be at the Wilshire Grand Hotel. And while that arrangement has not yet been formally approved by the council, Parisi said the hotel will also likely provide roughly 25 spaces for commuters. He added that the township will not have to pay to license those spots either.
With the stops finalized and parking set up, Lepore said the sixth jitney route should be ready to start in August once West Orange receives the bus it ordered. That vehicle will be larger than the jitneys used for the existing five routes with the engineer said pointing out that the bus can seat up to 33 people. It has enough room for another seven riders to stand, he said, so a total of 40 people can board at a time.
But just because the Pleasantdale-Redwood line is ready to go does not mean the route is set in stone. Lepore explained that residents can comment on what they think of the route using the jitney service’s Facebook page. After a few months of running the current route, he said the township will review that feedback and make adjustments where needed. Though he would not necessarily deviate from the route too much at this point, he said there a few changes he would not be surprised to see made.
“I would expect some perhaps minor adjustments, maybe with some of the timing of the runs,” Lepore said. “If there seems to be demand for stops to be added along the route, within reason that could be accommodated.”
Deena Rubin is one resident who certainly hopes the township will consider input from community members. Rubin’s group — Shuttle Advocates for Redwood and Pleasantdale — which pushed for a sixth route for months, unsuccessfully campaigned to sit down with the administration and participate in the planning process. And while she still thinks involving SHARP prior to formalizing the route would have been a good idea, she said she is optimistic township officials will listen to resident input and alter the route if necessary.
As for what she thinks of the current route, Rubin said she is withholding judgment until after the line goes into operation. She noted that while the route does have some things in common with the route SHARP put together, including a stop at B’nai Shalom, she is not sure how other aspects will work, particularly the ride around the Mississippi Avenue area. Regardless, she said she just wants the route to work well for the sake of all who have waited so long for it.
“I’m appreciative and hopeful that this route will be successful and that we will not need to ask for changes to be made,” Rubin told the Chronicle in a May 25 phone interview. “I only want to be positive and hopeful that it will come to pass in the right way.”
Rubin’s group was actually not left out of the planning process entirely, according to Lepore. The engineer said he consulted SHARP’s proposed route and incorporated parts of it into his own as it made sense. Parisi added that the township considered the feedback it gets from jitney riders on a regular basis, so the planning process definitely was not completed in a vacuum.
And Parisi is pleased now that the sixth route is ready to be launched. He said the Pleasantdale-Redwood line finally allows West Orange to offer its jitney service to an area of town not being served, thus hopefully increasing property values and attractiveness to potential buyers. On top of that, he said the route should be a boon to commuters.
“Even if only 10 people utilize the route, then that’s a huge plus for those 10 people,” Parisi said. “It makes their life in town a little bit easier. And that’s government’s job — to make everyone’s life a little bit more comfortable.”
To learn the exact schedule for the route, which takes approximately 25 minutes to ride in full, visit http://westorange.org/DocumentCenter/View/3287.