Freeholder H. James Polos
Chair, Public Works and Transportation Committee

County Transportation System Wins Federal DOT Award

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION has given its United We Ride Leadership Award to Middlesex County Area Transit, recognizing the system for its successful integration of human service transportation with traditional bus and rail services.

Middlesex County was one of just four counties and one state nationwide to be recognized as a model system.

“This is an incredible achievement, especially if you consider that the County’s Transportation Department was formed just four years ago,” said Freeholder H. James Polos, chairman of the County’s Public Works and Transportation Committee. “It proves what we have long felt: You can marry the door-to-door service of a paratransit system with the scheduling and route planning of a commuter transit system to effectively serve residents.”

The Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders created the Transportation Department in November 2004, brining under one roof the former Area Wide Transportation System (AWTS) and Central Vehicle Maintenance and Repair. AWTS, now Middlesex County Area Transit (MCAT), provides free, door-to-door transportation for disabled and senior citizens to doctors’ and other appointments.

Soon after that, the County introduced the first of its highly successful community shuttle programs, a fixed-route service that brings riders to and from senior citizen complexes, doctors’ offices, shopping centers and other local destinations.

The Community Shuttles are funded through a variety of federal, state and local sources; provide connections to NJ Transit bus and rail services and increase the efficiency of MCAT service delivery. Service is open to the general public, creating a more user-friendly, frequent and efficient service.

“The Community Shuttle programs have proven to be an excellent way to provide safe, affordable and efficient service to those who need it,” Polos said. “Seniors from Old Bridge, East Brunswick and Jamesburg can easily get to doctors’ appointments and shopping destinations. Workers from the New Brunswick area can now easily access job opportunities in workplaces along Jersey Avenue and in the area around Turnpike exit 8A. Riders can use their local shuttles to meet up with NJ Transit buses and trains and get to all the places they serve.”

The County also restructured the Hub City Trolley, a service running through New Brunswick, to meet up with the Jersey Avenue Shuttle. This resulted in a doubling of daily passenger trips from 220 to more than 500. The connections to six NJ Transit stops – including the Middlesex County Board of Social Services -- increased service frequency.

Due primarily to the explosive growth on the New Brunswick Shuttles, MCAT service grew by 25 percent between 2007 and 2008. The Community Shuttle program carried more than 200,000 passenger trips with 12 peak vehicles in 2008.

“To put this in context, the entire MCAT program carried 220,000 passenger trips on 55 vehicles in 2004,” said Steven Fittante, director of the County’s Transportation Department. “MCAT system productivity doubled from 2004 to 2008.”

“I attribute the success of the program to the hard work, dedication and caring demonstrated by the MCAT staff toward our customers,” Freeholder Polos said.

The United We Ride initiative came out of a 2004 Executive Order to create state Councils on Access and Mobility to better coordinate the use of 64 different federal funding sources from 11 federal departments. The Councils also develop plans to implement better coordination of these funding sources and traditional transit at the local level.