ASBURY PARK, NJ -- Olympic Airporter, an airport shuttle service that has carried thousands of Shore travelers to Newark and JFK airports for more than 30 years, will close on June 19 because of rising expenses and slowing demand, company officials said Thursday.
Its decision devastated customers, who viewed the service as an inexpensive alternative to a taxi or parking at the airport.
"It's going to be a tragedy for me, I'll tell you that much," said Kathy Brown, 63, of Red Bank, who uses the service four times a year. "The price is right, and it's convenient."
Wall-based Olympic Airporter operates 19 trips a day, with stops in Toms River, Wall, Middletown, Keyport and Newark Liberty International Airport. It also shuttles passengers to John F. Kennedy International Airport.
The company has about 16,500 passengers a month through its shuttle and limousine service. But it lately has battled a sharp decline in passengers and the rising cost of everything from fuel to automobile insurance, officials said.
Olympic charges $24 to $38 each way, depending on the destination. Some passengers found that to be a great deal, compared with spending $18 a day to park at Newark Liberty's long-term lot.
The company is owned by Roger Passarella, who bought Olympic Limousine in 1974 for $5,000. The company consisted of one black Cadillac, according to a 1992 profile in the Asbury Park Press.
His limousine service started slowly, so he came up with a plan to offer a carpool service to what was then called Newark International Airport. The idea caught on.
Olympic expanded. It started the airport shuttle service in 1987. It purchased the Princeton Airporter in 2006, adding service from Princeton to Newark Liberty and changing its name to the Olympic Airporter. Today, it has 128 full- and part-time employees and a fleet of 90 vehicles.
It survived the fall off in travel after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It survived record-high fuel prices last summer. But company officials said the current recession has been too severe.
Airline passenger traffic at Newark Liberty, for example, fell 12.3 percent during the first quarter, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Company officials said expenses have also taken a toll. Gasoline prices, while much lower than a year ago, have risen as much as 17 percent in the past month, according to AAA. And Olympic officials said the company's automobile insurance rates rose 24 percent this year.
Two months ago, Olympic raised prices 10%, but it wasn't enough to stay afloat, spokesman Matt Stanton said.
"It leads you to one conclusion," Stanton said. "You don't want to go there, but you have to."
The company will wind down its operations. It will reduce its schedule beginning today. It alerted some 30,000 customers by e-mail about its decision to close and referred customers to three other limousine services at the Shore, Concorde Worldwide, Arrow Limousine and Allaire.
The Port Authority's staff at the ground transportation desk at Newark Liberty will tell Olympic customers about other options, Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman said.
Source: Asbury Park Press