Depending on where you live in the state, the decision to whether to take a train or bus to work might be an afterthought. The public transportation options aren’t so plentiful in every part of New Jersey, however. One of the areas with a dearth of mass transits option is Cumberland County, but plans are set in motion to address the problem.
“One of the things you have to realize is the rural setting that is here- we’re wide spread apart, it’s a farming district so it creates a major problem of people getting to locations,” said Carl Kirstein, Freeholder Director of Cumberland County.
Kirstein says public transportation options have always been limited in the county, “The bus service that we do have it could take hours to get 15 miles away,” he cites as an example.
A Cumberland County Transportation Plan report expressed concerns about economic consequences of those limitations, stating “The County’s economy and its social potential are hampered by the County’s relative inaccessibility.”
A NJ Transit spokesperson told NJ Today, “The general metrics used to consider new or expanded NJ Transit bus service includes population density, ridership demand, and identified resources to support that demand.”
NJ Transit says there are four bus routes in Cumberland County which carry about 6,000 customers daily. Aside from bus service, the region isn’t close to any major highways and the rail service is limited.
According to Kirstein, “The Delaware Bridge Authority had proposed a PATCO line from running through the center of Cumberland County,” but adds “I don’t foresee that to take place for a long time … probably a strictly economic situation, I’m sure.”
Officials say the lack of public transportation contributes to the jobless rate. Cumberland County has the highest unemployment rate in the state at 13.9 percent.
“We have a large number of people who work in the casino industry- most of those people work in the lower economic bracket in those casinos. With Gas prices the way they are today it has created a tremendous burden on them almost to the point where they can’t justify going to work.”
Bridgeton resident Vincent Scurry described the real-life scenarios for people in the area. “Just imagine being sent off on a job interview or accepting a job and not being able to make it there because you don’t have adequate transportation there,” he said.
The county met with the South Jersey Transportation Authority and a union representative from Atlantic City’s casinos to determine the possibility of creating a shuttle service from Cumberland County to Atlantic City.
Kirstein says he’ll continue to work with county and state agencies to find ways to ensure Cumberland County residents have greater access to public transportation and continue the ongoing dialogue with legislators about expanding roadways. Reporting from Bridgeton, Lauren Wanko files this report.