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Jitney

The Port Jefferson, Stony Brook University Shuttle. Photo from Kevin Wood

The Port Jeff Jitney will soon bear the Stony Brook University logo and bring SBU Seawolves directly into the heart of the village.

A new program, which offers a free mobility loop for riders between the university and the Village of Port Jefferson, will start its first pilot season March 7. The village will be repurposing the 20-seat jitney bus for this program.

“We consider Stony Brook University a true partner with the village and an economic engine,” said Port Jeff Mayor Margot Garant. “This program will bring students and faculty to the village in an efficient way with no cost to the rider, offsetting the average Uber fee of well over $13 one way. This program also greatly helps with our goals to free up our parking lots — something we constantly look at in our managed parking program.”

“We consider Stony Brook University a true partner with the village and an economic engine.”

— Margot Garant

The loop was first presented to village trustees at their Feb. 4 meeting by Kevin Wood, the village parking administrator, who said the program will be administered by the Port Jefferson Parking & Mobility Resource Center. The program will cost the village approximately $13,000, though the village is looking toward the university to pick up the
promotional costs.

The loop will start at the Port Jefferson Rail Road Station along Main Street in what’s known as Upper Port, before heading into Arden Plaza in the village, continuing up West Broadway down Route 25A, stopping at Stop & Shop in East Setauket. Once on the Stony Brook campus, it will make stops at the main circle loop, West Campus and the Chapin Apartments before coming back down Route 25A and ending at the train station. 

The pilot program will run until May 23 and have times starting on Thursdays from 3 to 9 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wood said one does not need to show ID to enter the bus; otherwise, the program is free for students and university faculty.

The village and university are hosting a kickoff event March 7 to celebrate the first run of the bus. The event will also showcase tracking of the bus with a phone app, which Wood said should help cut down on frustration in knowing when it will arrive. The free app, Passio Go!, is currently available on both the Android Play store and the iTunes marketplace.

“It will certainly help students and faculty — there is no cost to ride. It will help free up our parking lots too.”

— Kevin Wood

The existing Port Jefferson Jitney has seen its share of riders in the past, such as the Friday and Saturday of the Sept. 15 weekend during the Dragon Boat Day Festival and the weekend of the annual Charles Dickens Festival, when the jitney had a ridership of 164 and 125, respectively, last year. On off weeks, the jitney has seen a low of 27 riders such as in the weekend of Sept. 8 and an average of approximately 70 riders in 2018.

Wood said while the idea has been around for about four years, he has been working diligently on it for the past four months. He said he expects the program might help rejuvenate the jitney’s ridership and mitigate some of the village’s parking issues.

“It’s a pilot, so we will see,” Wood said in an email. “It will certainly help students and faculty — there is no cost to ride. It will help free up our parking lots too.”

More information and a link to the bus locater app can be found on http://www.pjshuttle.com/.

The Port Jefferson jitney stops on Arden Place near Mariners Way. Photo by Elana Glowatz

The village jitney is up and running again, shuttling residents and visitors through Port Jefferson on summer weekends. But in its third year, village officials may take things up a notch.

At a village board of trustees meeting last Monday, Trustee Larry LaPointe announced they had received a $12,600 grant from Suffolk County to build three small shelters for people waiting to hop on the jitney.

It is a matching grant, so the village will have to kick in as much money as it accepts from the county. That may be slightly lower than the total available, as the trustees approved a proposal from Freeport-based Columbia Equipment Company to build the three red shelters for $19,500 — meaning each municipality would kick in just shy of $10,000.

LaPointe described the shelters as aluminum squares measuring 5 feet by 7 feet — the ridership numbers don’t justify building big shelters, he said — without benches inside.

“Benches attract people who want to take a nap,” he said.

Port Jefferson officials often contend with loitering vagrants or drunken people. There are frequently homeless people sleeping on the few benches around the area.

While the village could choose to put in benches down the road, LaPointe noted that because the shelters are small, leaving out a bench would improve access to the shelters for people in wheelchairs.

The shelters would be installed at the three points along the jitney route: at its start uptown on the east side of Oakland Avenue, near the Long Island Rail Road station; on the north side of Arden Place close to East Main Street; and at the harborfront park off East Broadway.

Those shelters are going to be red so they match the color of the shuttle bus.

“The shelters will really brand it — red jitney, red shelter,” LaPointe said.

The bus service, which resumed on Memorial Day, will keep trucking until Labor Day. Fare is $2, but children under 12 can ride for free.

When the jitney first started running in summer 2014, the village board saw the shuttle as a way to connect the vibrant downtown and the struggling uptown areas.

“It’s a good way to start bridging the gap between upper and lower Port,” Mayor Margot Garant said at the time. “We’ve got to get people circulating back up and down.”

Port Jefferson Village parking committee chairman George Westbay had originally presented the concept as a year-round service to link uptown and downtown, given the village’s push to revitalize the upper Port area and with a new apartment complex going up on Texaco Avenue to bring in more residents. He also saw it being used by visitors who could take the LIRR to Port Jefferson and then use the bus to go to a waterfront festival, for instance, instead of using a car.