Senate President Stephen Sweeney
Deputy Speaker John Burzichelli
Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro

South Jersey Times – Three weeks after a new shuttle bus service began making its route between Salem City and Bridgeton, local and state officials said they expect the service to have a positive impact on both communities.

Third District Legislatures, county freeholders, and mayors from both cities met on Tuesday behind the Salem County Courthouse on Market Street for a ceremonial ribbon cutting for the shuttle, and to discuss the impact it will have for residents.

“This means so much to me. I can tell this is going to help out so many people at this end of the county,” said Mayor Robert Davis. “This is a wonderful thing, because so many people who don’t have transportation have been asking about it.”

The shuttle was started to provide a greater opportunity for transportation to elderly residents and people with disabilities in Salem to visit Bridgeton’s Social Security and state offices.

Before the shuttle was started, the only bus route from Salem City to Bridgeton involved a 25 mile detour north to Woodbury.

“It’s so unfair what the people in this community had to put up with,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney. “Bridgeton is 20 minutes away, but you had to go up to Woodbury, back down to Bridgeton and then back Salem. You’d spend almost a whole day dealing with issues 20 minutes away. This was a fairness issue.”

The free shuttle began running Sept. 4 from the Salem County Courthouse. It runs twice daily on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The bus departs from Salem at 8:50 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., making stops at Broadway Towers and Incollingo’s shopping center and an additional stop at Smick’s Lumber in Quinton Township on its way to the Bridgeton-based Social Security and Housing and Urban Development offices.

Officials could not provide exact numbers on the level of ridership over the first few weeks, but it was reported by the county department of Social Services that only four people rode the bus on the first day.

Debbie Behnke, director of the Salem County Department of Social Services, said Tuesday that ridership has started to increase, and will hopefully continue to grow as more people are made aware of it.

“There has been an increase in ridership since its inception, and we feel that the numbers are growing,” she said.

Local, county and state officials have been working together to establish the shuttle route since early this year. County officials were able to work out an agreement with the state to sponsor a six-month trial period for the bus service. Under the agreement, the state will provide a $47,000 grant to fund the project, and NJ Transit provided the transit vehicle.

The county will administer the program through the Salem County Department of Social Services and provide monthly reports to the state on the level of ridership and any requested destinations. At the end of the six month trial, officials will evaluate the success of the program and determine whether or not it will continue.

“A direct link between the county seat in Cumberland County and the county seat in Salem County is going to be helpful to residents,” said Assemblyman John Burzichelli. “It will allow more opportunity for people to move easily from one place to another… It’s about helping people have a chance for better circumstances, and that’s what public transportation is supposed to do.”

Assemblywoman Celeste Riley added, “No one should have to put aside an entire day for a trip that should take just slightly more than an hour, yet that’s exactly what many Salem seniors and residents with disabilities had to do until this bus line came along.

“Not only is it making life easier for residents, it’s giving them back their day. It’s a winning situation for Salem County that is rightly being celebrated.”

The benefit of the shuttle to Bridgeton residents is that they now have a direct route to Salem’s Motor Vehicle Commission office — which is now Bridgeton’s closest office since its MVC office closed at the end of 2010.

“Since the loss of our Motor Vehicle office, this is the next closest office to the city of Bridgeton,” said Bridgeton Mayor Albert Kelly. “It’s extremely important to a lot of people, especially our seniors.”

Residents seeking more information or a complete bus schedule should contact Salem County Transit at 856-678-8777 or the Salem County Office on Aging at 856-339-8622.

District Offices

Gloucester County

Kingsway Commons
935 Kings Highway, Suite 400
West Deptford, NJ 08086
Phone: (856) 251-9801
Fax: (856) 251-9752

Salem/Cumberland Counties

The Finlaw Building
199 East Broadway, Suite G
Salem, NJ 08079
Phone: (856) 339-0808 or
             (856) 455-1011
Fax: (856) 339-9626