Transportation was the main topic of the Livingston Township Council meeting Monday night as municipal officials mulled over starting a shuttle service for commuters between the Livingston Mall and the South Orange train station.
Alan Karpas, chairman of the township's Vision 20/20 committee, said in the past many residents complained Livingston is "not commuter friendly" in a survey passed around last year to gauge how the community can be improved.
In an attempt to fix that, Karpas and Don Watt, vice president of Transoptions, a transportation non-profit organization, studied the issue and came up with a proposal to run a commuter van from the mall's parking lot to the South Orange train station, which has New Jersey Transit trains heading to New York City and Hoboken.
Under the proposal, the 15-passenger van would run from 6 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 9 p.m. from the Livingston Mall, where there would be free commuter parking.
Karpas and Watt said the service would cost about $450 per day for the driver, vehicle and insurance, or $54,000 for a six-month trial run.
They proposed charging passengers $2 per ride and the shuttle would need a total of 25 riders per hour to break even.
Besides sending workers to New York City and Hoboken, the shuttle could also be used for Day-trippers and as an alternative commuting system for workers at the Livingston Mall and Saint Barnabas Medical Center, Karpas said.
Karpas added he would like to have a three-month lead time to promote the service, if it happens, and he would like to have it up and running by the summer.
"I think it's a win for the community," Karpas said. "I think it's important to get out."
The township has wrestled with improving commuter accessibility to New York City for about 12 years, Mayor Stephen Santola said.
Money, of course, is a major concern, and Santola and other council members asked Karpas and Watt to see if any local businesses or South Orange downtown businesses would be interested in contributing funds to help offset the cost.
Selling ads was another possible source of funding, and Watt said a wrap-around bus ad could go for $5,000 a month.
Watt noted his organization helps run a similar shuttle service in Madison, (Morris County) between Farleigh Dickinson University, the downtown train station and the Staples Center, which he said has been successful.
Councilman Michael Rieber suggested pre-selling monthly passes in the township to measure interest in the commuter service. Councilman Gary Schneiderman said he was "prone to giving it a shot."
Santola thanked Karpas and Watt for their work and asked them to do more research to take the proposal to the next step. Santola said he, too, would be doing his own research as well and plans to talk with Madison officials on their commuter service.