Shuttle Service Adds a Transit Option in the Borough of Madison
By Judy Bortman, TransOptions Marketing Specialist
This article originally appeared in in the Spring 2013 ANJEC Report.
Sustainable transportation is thriving and growing in the Borough of Madison. This charming, cosmopolitan and environmentally-friendly university town in northwestern New Jersey has been implementing alternative transportation programs that improve mobility and the quality of life for people living, working and visiting the Borough.
Sustainability Thrives in Madison
Madison’s support for sustainable transportation manifests in many forms and for multiple audiences. TransOptions, the non-profit Transportation Management Associate for northwest New Jersey, works closely with Madison contacts and representatives in the Borough, the Downtown Development Commission, employers, residents, commuters, colleges and universities, the school district and senior groups.
The Borough has earned bronze level of the prestigious Sustainable Jersey Certification and been recognized as a New Jersey Smart Workplace for providing employee transit options. Electric cars on display, including a Tesla, are a highlight at the annual Green Fair. Renting bike lockers at the NJ TRANSIT train station, implemented by TransOptions, enables residents to have a car-free commute. Two NJ TRANSIT bus lines transport employees, commuters, college students and residents to nearby towns.
College Students Get Mobile with “MAD”
The Madison area is also home to three colleges, Drew University, Fairleigh Dickinson University and the College of St. Elizabeth with approximately 6,000 college students, faculty and staff living and working a short distance from downtown shops and services. A number of faculty and staff commute by train which curbs their access to the downtown Madison area. Freshman resident students at several of the colleges utilize alternative transportation for off-campus activities since they are restricted from having cars on campus.
For the last five years, Borough representatives, residents, schools, employers and the local universities have been working with in concert with TransOptions, to develop and implement an affordable, local transit option that would provide mobility for college students and be available for residents and commuters. The collaboration proved fruitful. After years of discussion and development, The Madison Avenue Direct (MAD) shuttle became a reality in downtown Madison on September 6, 2011.
Funded in part by a congestion management grant from NJ TRANSIT, MAD is a partnership of the three colleges it serves and the Madison Downtown Development Commission. TransOptions administers the grant for the three year pilot program with funding support from the Borough of Madison and the three Madison colleges. Borough and college officials heartily support the shuttle and hope that it will grow to become self-sustaining by 2014.
The fifteen-person MAD shuttle runs six days per week and connects the downtown area, NJ TRANSIT Train Station and several shopping centers with the three borough colleges, Drew University, Fairleigh Dickinson University and the College of St. Elizabeth. A shuttle ride costs $1.50 with discount books of 20 tickets reducing the cost to $1.00 per ride.
College students had eagerly awaited the shuttle service for its economic value, environmental support and added mobility. It’s been very well received, especially by underclassmen who are not permitted to have cars on campus. While MAD was implemented primarily for college students, faculty, staff and the general public are also permitted to ride. It’s been a win-win collaborative venture.
Since its inception in the fall of 2011, ridership has grown steadily. From September through December 2012, over 1,200 riders boarded the MAD Shuttle.
As word of the MAD Shuttle has grown, interest in riding the economical, local transport has spread to expanded audiences. A Madison commuter regularly rides the MAD Shuttle to the NJ TRANSIT train station for a car-free commute that also reduces reducing the cost of getting to work. Madison’s active senior community is exploring the MAD Shuttle as a cost-effective mobility options for those who do not drive.
Starting a Shuttle in Your Town
If a community is interested in developing a shuttle, they can reach out to TransOptions and we will guide them through the process. If the community is not located in our northwestern New Jersey territory, we will refer them to the Transportation Management Association (TMA) that is responsible for their area. The local TMA can help them determine demand, develop a route and timeline, create an RFP or put them in direct contact with vendors.
While the Madison Shuttle is funded through a CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality) grant, other towns, such as Livingston, have decided to develop pilot programs paid for by the municipality. Any TMA can assist an employer interested in establishing shuttle service to a nearby transit location. Connecting to sustainable transportation may help expand their employee pool and improve their workforce productivity.