By Joseph Sapia
The president of Brookdale Community College and its liaison on the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders are asking NJ Transit to study the costs and benefits of extending bus routes to better serve its campuses in Lincroft and Hazlet.
In the Tuesday, March 8, letter, Maureen Murphy, college president, and Freeholder John P. Curley ask Daniel Sandiford, a senior planner in the state transportation agency’s Southern Region Bus Service Planning to: 1) Extend the 835 Sea Bright-Red Bank bus route west from Red Bank to the main campus on Newman Springs Road/Route 520 in Lincroft, and 2) Re-route the 817 Perth Amboy-Middletown bus to better serve the Route 35 corridor, specifically, in this case, to provide better transportation alternatives to the Northern Monmouth Higher Education Center at Crown Plaza off Route 35.
“These recommended changes would be an important first step in a comprehensive approach towards improving transportation options for the Brookdale community,” the letter said.
Many Brookdale students rely on public transportation, Curley said. So, Brookdale needs the support of the transportation agency, Curley said.
“NJ Transit is there for a specific reason – to keep cars off the road and transport people,” Curley said.
The suggested changes have already been recommended in the Bayshore Transit Study, conducted by students at the Rutgers University Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy in spring 2015.
“We would like to request that a (formal) feasibility study be conducted to evaluate the benefits and costs of implementing the two recommendations put forth in Bloustein’s Bayshore Transit Study,” the letter continued. “Our Transportation Committee considers this an opportunity to reinforce the intra-county local bus network and it is our belief that these changes will provide the benefit of increased ridership on NJ Transit buses.”
Whereas the Bloustein study was a student assignment, commonly done at the school, Brookdale is hoping for a more formal NJ Transit study, said Avis McMillon, a Brookdale spokeswoman.
The nearest NJ Transit bus stop to the Higher Education Center is 1.5 miles away, at Route 36 and Harris Avenue on the Hazlet-Union Beach boundary,, according to the letter.
The letter also said there is no direct NJ Transit link between the Lincroft and Hazlet campuses – a public transportation route of 7.6 miles that now takes about two hours.
The 833 Freehold Township-Red Bank bus, which serves the Lincroft campus, stops there only once every 60 to 90 minutes, the letter said.
Any specifics on improving transportation, though, “would be part of a future study,” which Brookdale is requesting, McMillon said.
The letter also says Brookdale “is exploring strategies to improve transportation options in and around its Lincroft campus, as well as potentially its locations in Freehold, Hazlet, Long Branch, Neptune or Wall.”
While Brookdale already has a NJ Transit representative on its Transportation Committee and is aware of the concerns, the letter is simply “a formal request” for action, McMillon said.
As for NJ Transit’s response, the transportation agency released a statement:
“NJ Transit will work collaboratively with Brookdale Community College officials to explore the possibilities of enhancing bus service near the school. Part of this effort will include identifying a funding source to cover the cost.”
Brookdale has 14,000 students and is in “urgent need of viable transit options” for current students and for fostering increased enrollment.
“Brookdale is trying to expand itself and re-invent itself, putting in programs that would lead to more immediate employment,” Curley said. “Having accessibility to transportation is going to increase enrollment and make it more viable.”
The college says it is trying to help to move students and staff in various ways: busing, walking, bicycling and ride-sharing.
“We are constantly looking to improve transportation,” McMillon said. “We’re grateful to Freeholder Curley for joining us in this effort.”
Curley also praised Murphy “for spearheading the effort to improve transportation for students.”
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