By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
For the past year, Christine Bechtelheimer has been trying to get the jitneys to expand their shuttle service all the way up to the northern tip of Sea Isle City, close to where she has a vacation place at the Dolphin Beach condominiums on Second Street.
The ubiquitous green and white jitneys run their regular route each summer between the base of the Townsends Inlet Bridge in the southern part of town and 29th Street in the north end. But they don’t go any farther north than 29th Street.
But starting on June 16, supplemental jitney service will be offered to residents and visitors between First and 28th streets thanks to the businessman who owns the Shorebreak Resorts hotel properties in Sea Isle and Ocean City.
Christopher Glancey already has a contract with the Jitney Association to run free shuttle service between Sea Isle and Ocean City for his Shorebreak Resorts hotel guests. The service operates from Father’s Day weekend to Labor Day each year.
When Glancey heard about Bechtelheimer’s efforts to have jitney service expanded to the far north end of the island, he came up with the idea for his hotel shuttle to pick up Sea Isle riders between First and 28th streets as a free courtesy.
“It’s a simple solution. So why not do it?” Glancey said in an interview Thursday.
While expressing her thanks to Glancey, Bechtelheimer predicted that the expanded jitney service will be well-received by the condo residents at Dolphin Beach.
“Everyone at Dolphin Beach is thrilled,” Bechtelheimer said. “I am so appreciative of Chris’s generosity and his thinking outside the box. He didn’t have to step in and help us.”
Glancey’s Shorebreak Resorts hotels and suites in Sea Isle include the Ludlam Hotel and the Dunes. In Ocean City, the Shorebreak hotel properties include the Impala Island Inn, the Impala Suites, the Ebb Tide Suites and the Wild Dunes Inn.
From a business standpoint, Glancey said it was logical for him to expand his jitney shuttle service between First and 28th streets. That will result in more customers being dropped off in the center of Sea Isle to patronize the hotels, restaurants and retail shops, he noted.
“I’m a businessman. This is getting more people into the center of Sea Isle,” he said.
From a practical standpoint, the expanded jitney service should also improve safety by reducing the number of pedestrians who are walking along the busy Landis Avenue corridor between First and 28th streets, Glancey pointed out.
The supplemental jitney will be marked by a sign identifying it as the Dunes/Ludlam Shuttle.
Through the summer months, it will operate from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily between Sea Isle and Ocean City. Passengers who are picked up between First and 28th streets will be dropped off on 40th Street in downtown Sea Isle. The 40th Street stop will also serve as a pick-up point.
The pick-up and drop-off point at 40th Street will allow passengers to connect to the regular jitney service for other destinations.
Jitney drivers transport riders anywhere on the island from 94th Street at the base of the Townsends Inlet Bridge to 29th Street. Their summer hours are 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. daily up to Labor Day. The one-way fare is $2 from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. and $4 from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m., according to Sea Isle’s tourism website.
A few years ago, the jitneys ran service up to Strathmere through the northern part of Sea Isle as part of a program privately subsidized by local restaurants. The subsidies ended, so the jitneys no longer go to Strathmere.
Bechtelheimer first appeared at a City Council meeting in July 2022 to question why the jitneys did not serve Sea Isle north of 29th Street.
In remarks to Council, Bechtelheimer said she sees groups of people from the north end walking along Landis Avenue or on the beach all the way up to 29th Street to catch the jitney.
Dave Berry, president of the Jitney Association, explained in a 2022 interview that it may not be feasible for the regular jitneys to travel north of 29th Street because they run on compressed natural gas and are limited in how far they can go.
Bechtelheimer’s efforts to get the jitney service expanded to the far north end caught the attention of City Council President Mary Tighe. The two kept in contact while a solution was being sought, Bechtelheimer said.
Tighe supported the idea of having the jitneys travel north of 29th Street to serve the north end.
“I do want to give her credit,” Bechtelheimer said of Tighe’s help.
In the end, Tighe was hopeful that some arrangement could be made with the Jitney Association to extend service into the north end. Tighe praised Glancey and Berry for working out a plan to pick up passengers between First and 28th streets.
“I’m glad everyone was able to do it,” Tighe said. “That’s what I like about Sea Isle. Everyone works together to find a solution. Everyone stepped up.”