Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ocean County seeks funding for TR Connection bus-homeless affected?

Ridership Hit 1 Million in 2010

TOMS RIVER – The Toms River Connection bus is a familiar sight on Route 37, throughout the township and along the Route 35 barrier island as it transports hundreds of individuals daily to and from jobs, medical appointments and other activities.

Overseen by the Ocean County Transportation Department and funded in part by a federal grant, the Toms River Connection provided more than 122,000 passenger bus trips last year alone.

"This bus route is a success story and has fulfilled its goals of providing affordable transportation to promote access to jobs and socials services for our working residents who rely on public transportation," said Freeholder Deputy Director Gerry P. Little, who serves as liaison to the county's public transportation service known as Ocean Ride. "Today we are seeking board approval to apply for continued funding for this service."

According to Kathleen C. Edmond, director of Ocean Ride, the county is seeking $425,000 for federal fiscal year 2010 and an additional $425,000 for federal fiscal year 2011 as part of a competitive grant process involving NJ Transit, the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority and Federal Transit Administration.

"This bus route was started in February 2001 and has experienced steady growth with bus trips hovering around 44,000 in its first year," Edmond said. "Now in its 11th year of operation, we topped our one millionth ride in November 2010."

Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Workforce Investment Board, noted this bus route has provided numerous county residents with employment opportunities they may not have been able to access without the transportation.

"This bus route has been providing benefits to Ocean County residents since it was launched in 2001," Vicari said.

The route serves a variety of areas including the Ocean County Government complex in downtown Toms River, the Toms River Park and Ride on Water Street, here, the Ocean County Mall, the Ocean County Board of Social Services complex at 1027 Hooper Ave., here, which is also home to Ocean County's Department of Consumer Affairs, Veterans Service Bureau and Office of Senior Services. In addition, it stops at Community Medical Center, WalMart and the Toms River Business Park.

"The link begins on the barrier island and provides a transportation service for individuals living along Route 35 providing them a way to access the mainland," Edmond said.

Edmond noted that on June 6, 2010, a new vendor, Classic Tours began operation of the route, which operates on a schedule of seven days a week during the summer and six days a week during the remainder of the year.

"The new contractor operates upgraded transit vehicles at a lower contract cost," Edmond said. "The bid price reflected a cost savings of more than $19,000 a year."

The cost to ride the Toms River Connection is $1.50 and 75 cents for seniors, persons with disabilities and college students with ID.

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