2012-05-24 / Front Page
Shore EZ Ride shuttle adds Long Branch to beach route
Ninth annual Monmouth County Transportation Summit spurs traffic solutions
LONG BRANCH — This summer, Long Branch commuters will be able to hop on the Shore EZ Ride shuttle for transportation to the beach, businesses, commercial areas and residential complexes.
Nora Shepard, representative of Meadowlands Transportation Brokerage Corp., which also operates under the name Meadowlink, said the nonprofit organization is adding Long Branch to its Shore EZ Ride route in Monmouth County this summer.
“Visitors are an important part of New Jersey’s economy. The EZ Ride shuttle runs at the Shore through Asbury Park, Bradley Beach, Ocean Grove, Neptune Township, and this year Long Branch is a new one,” Shepard said at the ninth annual Monmouth County Transportation Summit held at Monmouth University on May 15.
The summit was sponsored by the Monmouth County Transportation Council and brought together residents, elected officials, planners and engineers who fleshed out possible solutions to transportation issues facing their respective communities.
“We try to find opportunities and fill the holes where we can provide solutions that a local government or a county government or the state can’t provide, because we’re nonprofit, we’re not a government agency, so we have some ability to get funding,” said Shepard.
The Wood Ridge-based company received a federal grant to fund the transportation service, and Long Branch would pay off part of the matching portion of the grant, which, according to a Long Branch resolution passed on March 13, would cost the city no more than $33,600.
Included in the resolution are two daytime route maps with stops along the beachfront and lower Broadway, and an evening route map that eliminates most of the beach stops and makes additional stops in the city’s popular West End section.
Shepard said Meadowlink’s shuttle service is the cornerstone program that provides transportation to 147,000 riders annually, most of whom seek transportation to employment centers.
“Transportation is the second largest expense for American households, and the lower-income folks spend proportionally more money on transportation needs,” she said.
“Transportation is often a barrier to employment, so it’s important. The challenge is that the demand is increasing wildly but the funding is decreasing, and it’s really a challenge here in Monmouth County.”
From Memorial Day through Labor Day, Long Branch is expected to have two jitneys that will operate on the weekends from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and will charge a $1 fare.
The Long Branch Council will re-evaluate the routes and service once the season ends.
Red Bank will also receive transportation service upgrades this summer through the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), which deemed Front Street a crashprone location after 198 vehicle accidents occurred from 2008 to 2010.
As a result, the county selected Red Bank as the recipient of NJTPA’s Local Safety
Program in 2011, which provides a “quick fix” for safety improvements.
“The Local Safety Program advances safety initiatives on county and local roadways,” said Christine Mittman, senior planner for NJTPA,
According to NJTPA data from 2008 to 2010, Red Bank had 442 total crashes on seven roads that were identified as crash prone, of which 198 crashes took place along Front Street and resulted in one fatality.
“With this program, there is crash analysis that’s involved. Rutgers [University] created Plans4Safety, a data analysis program that collects all of the crash data that comes from the police reports from the municipalities, and the counties give it to Rutgers to put it into the Plans4Safety program. The program has all the crash data from 2003 to the first few months of 2012,” said Mittman.
“What we do with that crash data for this particular program is we identify segments that have crash problems and then we prioritize them by the Equivalent Property Damage Only (EPDO). We weigh the severity of crashes. If there’s a fatality involved, it gets five times the weight than if it were just property damage only.”
The $600,000 project for Front Street, or County Road 10, is scheduled to begin in June and consists of minor roadway reconstruction to standardize the width of traffic lanes, drainage improvements and a skid-resistant surface treatment.
Additionally, there will be color pavement for crosswalks, ADA-accessible ramps, curb extensions, solar-powered flashing warning beacons, and traffic signal upgrades.
“We analyze the projects pre- and postconstruction to look at the crash data to show that there actually has been a reduction in crashes,” said Mittman.
According to the senior planner, the county has 24 months to complete the project, and NJTPA won’t have the post-construction results until 2015.
The NJTPAis providing $500,000 for the project through federal funding with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), while the remained $100,000 is covered by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
The NJTPA began the Local Safety Program in 2005 and has since approved more than $50 million for various projects throughout the region, said Mittman.