WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange jitney launched a sixth line that started service Tuesday, Sept. 5, and will provide commuters with rides to and from the Brick Church and Orange train stations. The new line covers the Redwood, Pleasantdale and Lourdes neighborhoods on weekdays and makes stops on Pleasant Valley Way at Hooper Avenue and Mississippi Avenue at Harrison Avenue, with two park-and-ride pickup stops on Pleasant Valley Way at the Loft for the Wilshire Grand Hotel and on Woodland Avenue at B’nai Shalom.
According to Leonard Lepore, the West Orange township engineer, the launch of the new jitney has begun its runs on schedule with the township’s summer goal.
“We said we wanted it to start this summer,” Lepore told the West Orange Chronicle in a phone interview on Sept. 1. “We were expecting to have the new buses sometime around now, so we’re on schedule. We’re ready to start, and we’ll be on or as close to the NJ Transit schedule as possible now that the summer hours are over.”
In addition to the new jitney route, two existing buses will be replaced sometime in October. With these new buses and the additional route, Lepore said the township will be better able to serve all its residents.
“There was a lot of demand for a new (route), particularly in the Redwood area,” Lepore said. “Pleasantdale, Redwood and Lourdes is a bigger area and a lot of people live there.”
“The township’s jitney program has successfully assisted commuters to access local trains for many years but only served certain sections of town,” Mayor Robert Parisi said in an email Sept. 2. “There has always been the need to expand that and now this new route and service will provide jitney access for all residents.”
The park-and-ride locations at the Wilshire Grand Hotel and at B’nai Shalom are centrally located and will allow the jitney to cover more ground, according to Lepore. Riders who want to use the park-and-ride locations must be West Orange residents with valid identification and evidence of an NJ Transit monthly ticket. There is no fee for the parking permit, which the township will not begin looking for until Oct. 2. Permit applications can be found online at www.westorange.org and can be dropped off at the Department of Public Works or sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The permits will be distributed on or after Sept. 18.
Parisi said the schedule for the new jitney will be adjusted if any immediate improvements are needed, and that the route will be monitored for the first few months of operation to account for any other changes.
“It is likely that ridership will start slow and we will make necessary adjustments in the beginning to ensure we are reaching as many residents as possible,” he said. “The original plan and schedule will still be how the program will start and we will make adjustments after we have a chance to see how many residents utilize the service and what tweaks can be made to improve it.”
Lepore said the cost of the new jitney service to the township is the same as the other five previously existing lines.
“They all cost about the same,” he said. “It’s about $50,000 to $55,000 annually.”
Svetlana Ostrovskaya is one West Orange resident who will be taking advantage of the new jitney line. She lives a five-minute walk from the Mississippi Avenue stop, which makes her commute easier.
“I do think this area was pretty underserved since none of the other jitney lines are anywhere near here,” Ostrovskaya said in an email on Sept. 2. “I have been taking the No. 21 bus to and from Orange Station but it wasn’t really timed to the train schedule, so very often I would get off the train and the next bus isn’t for 20 minutes.”
Ostrovskaya expressed surprise, however, that the jitney line does not bring riders to the Bay or Walnut Street stations in Montclair, since they would be a shorter drive.
“Those are a much shorter drive which could make (the) commute even shorter, but I’m sure there is a reason,” she said. “Having a jitney right at the station will be great.”