Livingston Jitney Service on the Way as Alternative to 77 Bus to New York City; Adult School Returning

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LIVINGSTON, NJ - Township residents soon will have a less expensive alternative to take them to the South Orange Train Station for transportation into Manhattan or to local shopping areas.

At Monday’s Township Council meeting Alan Karpas, who spearheaded the latest Vision 20/20 Committee aimed at planning for Livingston’s future, said the proposed jitney service, as currently planned, would run from 5:30 through 9:30 am from The Livingston Mall to the South Orange station and to shopping areas in the township’s central business district.

Mayor Stephen Santola added the schedule for the service, which is set to begin some time after Labor Day, could be adjusted based on rider demand.

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The fee will be $2 per ride and, according to Santola, the combination of advertising on the jitneys and passenger fares should make the service self-sufficient after its initial six-month trial.

He added the township only would be on the hook for the $54,000 startup cost if there are no riders and there is no advertising.

Karpas said, however, separate surveys taken at St. Barnabas Medical Center and other points in Livingston show 98 people in favor of the service and only 47 opposed.

Township Manager Michele Meade said the startup funds would come from the township’s Recreation Trust Fund and the township would try to work out a monthly pass system for the jitney service.

The governing body on Monday introduced an ordinance to institute the jitney service. The public hearing and possible final adoption of that ordinance are scheduled for Tuesday, September 4.

One of the motivations for institution of the jitney service was a rash of complaints by Livingston and West Orange residents who currently ride the No. 77 bus into Manhattan.

At a recent meeting with local and state officials and John Nguyen, a general manager of Community Coach, which operates the bus, those in attendance complained of tardy, unsafe and dirty buses and poor attitudes of drivers toward passengers.

Santola said Monday he has heard that service has improved since the meeting, but the test will come after the summer when more passengers will attempt to use the 77 bus.

On another matter at Monday’s meeting, Jennifer Hessberger, township senior, youth and leisure services director, and Lilliana Branquinho, program supervisor for senior and adult enrichment, detailed the proposed return of an adult school program to Livingston.

Santola noted the township had such a program many years ago but disbanded that program and many township residents were going to Chatham and other areas to attend adult classes.

Hessberger and Branquinho said they have been speaking with the Livingston public school administration and many instructors who teach classes in subjects such as Tai Chi, yoga and dance now offered through senior, youth and leisure services during the day.  They said these programs can be expanded to the evening to accommodate those in their 30s through 50s who work during the day.

On another matter, the mayor told Frederick Friedman, commander of the township post of the American Legion, that he was looking into funding of affordable housing for veterans.

Santola said normally the state Council on Affordable Housing is opposed to crediting municipalities with “fair share” housing units aimed at particular groups, but there is a possibility it will allow housing for veterans to meet Livingston’s quota.

“We may be able to address two issues at once,” the mayor added.

On another matter, the council voted 4-1 to award a contract for a lighting detection system for township fields to ThorGuard.

Although Councilwoman Deborah Shapiro said she favored the system she decided to vote against the measure because more than $30,000 was being budgeted when plans only call for using $15,850 of the total.

She added she did not want to see $30,000 left in the resolution unless the township had other specific sites at which it wanted to install the improved systems.

Santola replied the extra money could be used in the future if the improved systems later were needed elsewhere in the township.

Resident Larry Kohn also questioned the expenditure of $92,000 for ceiling, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, lighting and miscellaneous improvements at the senior community center.

Meade replied the Essex Regional Health Commission, which leases space in the center from the township, was reimbursing Livingston $46,000 for improvements being made to the space it leases.

She added since the contractor already was doing the work, including installation of dropped ceilings in the leased space, the township decided to make similar improvements in the area of the center it previously used for municipal offices.

The township manager also told resident Walter Levine of 425 Walnut Street that the township was paying All J’s Mechanical, LLC for heating, ventilation and air conditioning maintenance and repairs in facilities other than the senior center as needed in emergencies.

She said the $50,000 set aside in the resolution for All J’s was for a yearly maintenance contract.

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