“This service is a key component to the quality of life for many of our residents,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Virginia E. Haines, during a recent public hearing on NJ Transit funding for the service. “This service benefits countless numbers of people allowing them to access jobs, get to doctor’s appointments, shopping and other every day events.
“It makes a significant difference for our citizens who do not have transportation readily available,” Haines said.
Ocean County anticipates receiving $1,378,526 under the Fiscal Year 2020 Senior Citizen and Disabled Resident Transportation Assistance Program grant which funds are derived from casino revenues and are distributed by NJ Transit. The 2020 funding is down almost $6,000.
“We have been advised that with the advent of sports betting and its subsequent success, our funding from the casino revenue sharing, will be increasing in future fiscal years,” Haines said. “This is very good news since we have been weathering a downturn in funding for Ocean Ride from the state for several years.”
She noted that the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders provides the greatest share of funding for the service.
“The county’s contribution accounts for more than $3 million, which represents over 54 percent of Ocean Ride’s total budget,” said Ocean County Freeholder Gary Quinn, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Transportation Department. “The Board of Freeholders understands the significance of providing reliable transportation to its citizens and has maintained the considerable financial support in order to continue this service.”
He added that the County will continue to seek creative ways to improve this service.
David L. Fitzgerald, Director of the Ocean County Transportation Department, said casino funds used to support Ocean Ride peaked in 2008 and since that time Ocean County has lost about $1.5 million in annual awards, from $2.8 million to approximately $1.3 million.
“This resulted in us thoroughly reviewing all aspects of this service,” Haines said. “And the Ocean Ride staff has developed smart strategies to keep this transportation system functioning so it continues to be beneficial to our residents.”
Grant funds cover a portion of the operational expenses, repairs and maintenance, minigrant program, reserve a ride program, fixed bus service, veterans’ transportation and other services of Ocean Ride.
In an effort to maximize its funding, Ocean County continues to make important upgrades to its transportation software system, has introduced a newly redesigned website and now has an Mobile App called “Where’s My Bus” which can be downloaded from Google Play and the Apple App Store.
“We continue to make this service more efficient for drivers and more helpful for our ridership,” Quinn said. “In addition the department continues to monitor all service levels for efficiencies.”
Speakers at the June 20 public hearing offered their praise for Ocean Ride noting that it made a difference in the lives of many seniors and the disabled living in Ocean County.
Walter Preston, who serves as chairman of the Ocean County Transportation Advisory Committee for Senior Citizens and Persons with Disabilities, noted that the professional and dedicated staff at Ocean Ride is key to the program’s success.
“All of you here are a part of something extremely important,” Preston told the staff present at the public hearing. “I commend you all for the service you provide our riders.”
In 2018, Ocean Ride provided 320,075 trips.
“Our Ocean Ride staff works to make certain we are providing the best service possible within the budget,” Freeholder Haines said.
Written comments for the public hearing record will be accepted until June 30 and can be sent to David L. Fitzgerald, Director, Ocean County Department of Transportation Services, P.O. Box 2191, Toms River, N.J. 08754-2191.