Ocean County has received a $1.7 million grant from NJ Transit for its county transportation program, Ocean Ride, the Board of Freeholders announced Wednesday.
The grant, an annual allocation based on the state's casino revenue program and the number of seniors in the county, reflects an 11 percent decrease in funding from the state over the 2012 grant, Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little said.
State funding for the program, which has been in existence since 1977, is down about 40 percent since 2009, said Dave Fitzgerald, of the county's transportation department. Fifty percent of the funding, however, comes from the county's taxpayers.
Ocean Ride provides transportation throughout the county in the form of regular bus routes, as well as its direct service "Reserve-A-Ride" program for senior citizens and those with disabilities to medical appointments. It also provides transportation for veterans needing treatment at Veterans Administration clinics and for disabled citizens needing assistance getting to and from employment.
In 2011, Ocean Ride recorded 349,463 passenger trips and covered 1.3 million miles of travel, Little said. That is despite a consolidation of routes from 17 to 12, and a reduction in the number of drivers, from 77 to 67.
"There have been no layoffs," Little said. "We just haven't filled openings as people retired."
"We are continuing to provide core services," he said.
To make up some of the lost funding, the county instituted fares to use the system. Senior citizens and those with disabilities pay 50 cents per trip, while the general public pays $1.50.
Some towns receive limited service -- Barnegat, for example, has a Friday "Shoppers Loop" route that provides transportation to Genuardi's, Bay Shore Plaza, the post office, the Barnegat branch of the county library, and to ShopRite in Waretown, primarily for seniors and those with disabilities -- but there are several routes that run five days a week and provide access to important services at county offices in Toms River.
Information on using Ocean Ride and the system's bus routes can be accessed through the county's website, here. A brochure on the system is attached to this story. Maps of the county's routes are available as PDFs on the county's Route Information page. Click on the colored boxes on that page to access the PDFs.