Bob Zuckerman is juiced about jitneys.
The City Council candidate raised a few eyebrows at a recent debate in Carroll Gardens when he recommended bringing jitneys to downtown Brooklyn as part of a revitalized parking permit program.
“We all know that our streets are congested, it’s more true now than ever,” Zuckerman told this paper. “People are calling Park Slope ‘No Park Slope.’ My idea is to try to get cars off the road, as well as provide a service for these motorists that could be environmentally friendly.”
Zuckerman’s “permit parking system with a twist” would require that car owners enrolled in the plan pay $10 a month for their permit.
The money collected would go to pay a an ecoâˆ’friendly jitney bus service that would take motorists to major destinations and transit hubs throughout the borough.
Zuckerman foresees jitneys not only taking people to train stations, but up and down major shopping corridors throughout the 39th City Council district he is vying to lead.
“The subway system is very Manhattanâˆ’centric,” he said. “It’s designed to bring people to New York City. But what about getting around Brooklyn? I can envision a jitney line running through Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill taking people to Borough Hall, but I can also see it taking people to shops and restaurants.”
During last year’s push for congestion pricing, groups in Park Slope and downtown Brooklyn were generally in favor of a residential parking permit plan. While money raised by congestion pricing was designed to improve transportation in the city, there was no talk about jitney services.
As it turns out, jitneys are already being used in the borough. But in south Brooklyn they’re known as dollar vans — a mode of transport both praised and vilified, depending on which neighborhood they’re rolling through.
Many — mostly motorists — have complained that dollar vans cut off cars and zip in and out of traffic as they scramble to pick up fares.
“Ours won’t be dollar vans because, first of all, it would be free,” Zuckerman explained. “We’re also going to make sure that our drivers are trained properly. This is a residential neighborhood, not a speedway.”
Zuckerman would like to model the jitney system off one created in Maplewood New Jersey, which he likes to call “Park Slope West.” A neighborhood jitney service created there “became a tremendous asset that transformed the town,” he said.
His plan is also similar to the buses seen in the early days of Hampton Jitney, which began in response of the oil crisis in the 1970s.
Back then, the Hampton Jitney consisted of a number of small vans and buses that brought Long Island residents in between towns, company Vice President Andrew Lynch explained.
“It began as a community service,” he said. “We even had bike racks behind our vans so bicyclists could use them.”
Lynch said that safety is a major worry about any interâˆ’borough jitney services.
“Everyone is concerned about frequency and reliability, but the safety of the driver is the biggest concern,” he said.
Today Hampton Jitney has expanded to a pointâˆ’toâˆ’point bus service taking residents all over.
Each weekend in the spring and summer, Hampton Jitneys pick up Brooklynites at spots in Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights headed for a Hamptons holiday.
Zuckerman understands that in order to make a parking permit plan successful it has to be implemented either borough or city wide.
“It has to be done holistically, but according to every car owner I’ve spoken to about this, $10 is a small price to pay,” he said. “They think its a great idea.”
But he’s not the first one to come up with it.
Community Board 6 chairman Craig Hammerman, who recently dropped out of the same city council race, said that many people have tried to develop a community transportation system over the years.
©2009 Community News Group
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