The green and white jitneys are ubiquitous in Atlantic City.
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — The Federal Transit Administration issued a cease-and-desist order on March 25 to the Atlantic City Jitney Association (ACJA), ordering them to halt all charter services. The decision “follows a complaint made last year by Five Mile Beach Electric Railway Co., alleging the jitneys are violating terms of a federal grant by providing charter services, including private transportation to weddings, parties and sporting events,” according to The Press of Atlantic City.
In particular, the FTA order pointed out that ACJA vehicles violate the FTA’s charter-service regulations because they are federally funded vehicles. Because the Jitney Association purchased vehicles with the help of two grants issued through the New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJT) in 2009 and 2011, the association must comply with federal regulations restricting them from competing against charter services. The FTA order states: “ACJA fails to recognize the terms of their funding agreement with NJT. The Charter Service regulations serve to protect charter operators like Five Mile ‘from unauthorized competition from recipients of Federal financial assistance under the Federal Transit Laws.’”
ACJA president Tom Woodruff was originally defiant of the order. He said that jitneys would operate as usual and the association would appeal the order, noting that not all (only 90 of its 190 vehicles) are federally funded. However, the green and white jitneys, which provide transportation to and from Atlantic City International Airport, did suspend service on Friday, resuming on Saturday once an appeal was filed with the FTA.
In order to meet the terms of the cease-and-desist, the jitneys are operating free of charge. Operating as a free service also satisfied the South Jersey Transportation Authority, which runs the airport, and which had previously stated it would revoke its permit to the ACJA.
This all comes at the same time that the Atlantic City Council is considering an ordinance which would allow jitneys to do charter service. The ordinance would allow jitneys to operate as limousines, yet outside New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) regulations.
In an attempt to level the playing field, Barry Lefkowitz, executive director of the Limousine Associations of New Jersey, has been working with State Assemblyman Charles Mainor, D-31st District, on the jitney issue. As a result, legislation was introduced on March 28 that would require jitney operators to abide by the same rules and regulations as limo companies, including minimum insurance requirements, CDL, criminal background checks, and MVC authority.
“Since they want to act like limos and do charter service, then they’re going to have to follow the same rules,” Lefkowitz said.
Lefkowitz added that many beach towns in New Jersey are allowing jitneys to operate as buses. “What towns don’t realize is that because the jitneys are operating outside of what they’re legally supposed to be doing, if there’s a lawsuit, the towns will be liable. First of all, if you’re operating as a bus, you’re supposed to have $5 million [in insurance]. The jitneys are only required $135,000.”
— Denis Wilson, LCT East Coast Editor