To start off I have to say that I have not been back to New Brunswick in over 8 years, so I don’t know if the trolley bus for all residents including poor residents has been improved upon or is still active.
I remember back in the late 1990’s to 2003, while at Rutgers, the ongoing revitalizing program being run by the City of New Brunswick and the effect it had on poor residents that lived within the perimeter that surrounded that town center community. Of course the poor residents of that community were paid off to move-on; something which took some time and wrangling by both sides to overcome. Eventually their homes lay vacant and the bulldozers moved in to pave over and construct high priced (PUD’s) condos and townehomes developments all throughout the expanse of that once poor community. As with any inner city revitalization project some will lose and some will win. In most cases the city wins, like in New Brunswick many local merchants paid the price of modernization through the loss of their properties located in ground zero. But one thing must be remembered that at the time that the revitalization program was taking shape much of the downtown structures where in desperate need of either demolition or major reconstruction and modernization. The poor blighted neighborhoods where just that, Blighted! And the inner city building envelopes were early American developments constructed at or around the turn of the century. So change was needed and it took a stern city administration along with the push of several mayors’ over a twenty year planning program to make that dream come trough. The main parcel of land that was inhabited by poor residents lay along the bottom of a slope of hills that could be seen from atop on George Street the heart of the downtown section of New Brunswick. Once the condos and townehomes were in place, the slow process of finding tenants began and it didn’t take too long before most of the developments were filled with new tenants from Rutgers or corporate neighbors such as Johnson & Johnson Headquarters employees several blocks down the road. Where the poor tenants of that neighborhood went, I can only speculate that they migrated to other border towns and I remember hearing that some took advantage of Section VIII vouchers and moved to better quarters nearby or far away. So all and all it worked out for the city after filing for eminent domain and creating court orders for blighted status and recreating poor neighborhoods into cleaner more livable commercial and residential spaces. One of the things I remember that seemed positive to me outside of the funky-looking trolley style bus which looked more like a dog and pony show; was the way the city with government funds created a form of free transportation for city residents to take advantage of. I certainly would not have brought in a trolley bus that looked more out of place and gave me the impression that the city just wanted to parade the poor around town in a mocking way. Now the university had its own basic style busses and the private bus company that ran routes throughout the city and neighboring counties had their normal basic style buses except for the city of New Brunswick which chose to provide the poor a trolley style bus that looks like a circus bus. But that’s my opinion and that they even provided this form of free transportation to residents including the city’s poor is something for which I will certainly applaud the leadership that it took to provide anything free for poor residents. I would venture to guess that the free transportation came about as a result of the process of the city’s revitalization program; after they chose to move the local unemployment office several miles outside the city limits, along with the local board of social services office -a few miles outside of town. This brings me to the reason for this petition. Every time I go to the WalMart Super Center or some other mall, or just shopping across local towns I can’t help but see some Black or White or Latino or elderly or single mom waiting outside some store for the local taxi service to pick her or him up. In some cities I have noticed gypsy cabs or vans picking people up along many routes. Some of these individuals are not licensed or insured properly to carry paying customers. I used to be a taxi driver I remember how we use to make them wait because we had a pecking order of clients to pick up first; such as local employees who had a specific timeline to be picked up; or others who always went before those waiting at the grocery store or at the malls. And even when we did pick them up they usually had to come along with us for a long ride as we picked up and dropped off other riders and then eventually we would drop them off with all their groceries. And if you remember it was about .50 cents per bag of groceries in the trunk or on their laps. The taxi company charged them for everything. Almost anyone who has ridden a local taxi cab has had the experience of being dragged around for hours sometimes just to get to where they were going. Not all riders are as hospitable as one would like them to be, some are drunk or unsocial but, the fact remains that if you are a fare paying customer you must be treated with respect and brought to your destination in a timely fashion. Usually, these cab companies are governed by the city and some do get away with a lot of things but, all in all, when the city does decide to crack down it can be unpleasant for some of these scoundrels. Once again, this leads me back to New Brunswick, New Jersey; a city of about 5 square miles nestled within the picturesque surroundings of Rutgers University, Johnson and Johnson’s many corporate facilities and other residential areas. I marveled at the thought that a progressively staunch city administration that spanned the length of three decades or more would favor providing a free city bus service for residents including the poor. This is possible, it can be done, and the government will gladly pay for it. I think that if Mrs. Obama heard of this idea she would want to help get it funded. Take the city of Vidalia, Georgia for example; a cab ride from downtown to the WalMart Super Center will cost you $5.00 dollars or more. Money, that in today’s recessionary-economy creates a hardship for many poor city residents. One or two small city buses that would run on an hourly basis to the social security offices, unemployment offices and county administration offices would be a welcome relief. Helping to bring a greater influx of consumers to the shopping districts and those who labor and are in need of work or who need to travel to doctors appointments could see their quality of life enhanced. Bringing in buses that would travel along the downtown areas throughout specific the city neighborhoods and along to the manufacturing and distribution areas and along to the adult learning centers and county technical college areas; would surely go a long way to help to bring a better quality of life for the poor; especially during these hot summer days. Vidalia, like so many rural and urban cities boasts a large senior citizen community as well as a long history of rural poor residents. Its about time cities like Vidalia, Georgia and other urban towns contributed towards expanded transportation services for the senior citizens and the poor. New Brunswick is a unique example of how innovation, revitalization and creative transportation services can be linked together and supported by local, state and federal entities. It also offers a model by which other cities can look at ways that they too can take action towards helping to transform the cities of yesterday into a new and all inclusive cities of tomorrow. Cities, not just only framed to keep out the unwanted, but, one’s that are also concerned with helping to provide a better and more sustainable means of transportation for all its citizens. What is needed is a free transportation service to be provided –locally- by municipalities; that can be funded through grants from counties, states and the federal government. In order to provide this much needed service to the rural and urban community; including but most importantly its poor residents. Making transportation affordable for low income people is just as important as helping to provide other much needed services; including access to adequate job sites and livable quarters. But if you’ve ever driven in the southlands of the US and throughout some inner city neighborhoods you will find plenty of poverty and inadequate services; along with run down tenement buildings, crime and drug infected areas. And as you travel out to the rural urban areas you will find dilapidated manufactured mobile homes that are probably 20 or 30 years old. Poor communities living in abject poverty, strewn along the by-ways and straddled along the edges and the interiors of some towns and villages; forgotten relics, of the burning embers of extinction and societal failures. How are we providing a better quality of life for poor residents of our communities when transportation costs have sky rocketed for them, when living quarters are dilapidated and or too costly, and when jobs are few and they can't get to them? During these harsh economic times one group of people has chosen to make the poor the scapegoats, in order to make it look like they are doing something to help the economy; while, all the time they are lining their own pockets with huge profits from their own individual businesses or ventures. We are facing a growing cancer in today’s society that would demolish all forms of progress from what little social programs actually offer the poor. There is a group out here that is slowly trying to dismantle what little help the urban and rural poor get in order to bring in a new world order; one that would help create a one class society -where- only the upper levels would gain from those who would remain at the lower levels doing the lowest paying jobs with little to no upward mobility and or job security. Denying them of class status would mean they would have no rights, no protection under the law as in so many third world nations. We are seeing today a hatred for the poor classes –unprecedented- in this nation’s history brought about by a chosen few who hide their sinister plans behind the cloak of some of this nation’s most noteworthy institutions. Few people realize that greed is a despicable decease; that when it consumes the mind it can make those around it, its worst enemies. And it is because of this malignant decease of greed and hatred that social institutions were created to help stem the tide and help bring much needed support for so many poor communities out on the fringes. These social welfare institutions today are being slowly dismantled and depriving those in need, those less fortunate of the aid they so desperately should get on a regular basis. Instead the poor are indirectly blamed and made to pay the price for the mistakes made by corporate America and those in government; that, were incapable of attending to the disastrous affects brought upon this nation’s economy as a result of decades of job flight, plant closings, infrastructural deterioration, government waste and economic obsolescence. Take a close look at Mike Davis’s book titled “City of Quartz”, so you can get a better picture of the unfortunate side effects of inner city revitalization, gated communities and police state mentality. How some people could just stand by while other members of society go without affordable transportation, clean drinking water or safe affordable housing, or even a fair and livable wage is mind boggling to me?
John R. Hernandez
This entire petition has been completely re-edited including the information concerning the New Brunswick , New Jersey -City Trolley! RE-EDITED PETITION TEXT AND UPDATED NEW BRUNSWICK TROLLEY INFO
I decided to do some re-editing and further research on this petition and the players.
In an article I found while doing research for this story titled “Shuttle bus service offers more stops in New Brunswick,’ Published: Tuesday, July 08, 2008, 5:13 PM [and] Updated: Tuesday, July 08, 2008, 5:45 PM” By Diane C. Walsh a correspondent with NJ.com out of New Jersey, reads, “Officials christened a new, integrated, shuttle bus service in New Brunswick today that offers more stops and extended hours to help passengers get in and around the city.
The new line -- "BrunsQuik Loop" -- will help replace the Hub City Trolley, which was discontinued in June. Middlesex County also expanded its Jersey Avenue shuttle route to provide more stops along the old line, which also is being covered by Rutgers University buses.
Steve Fittante, director of transportation for Middlesex County, said the new service rolled out last week and already ridership is up 30 percent to 296 passenger trips a day. There's no required fee on the shuttles, but riders are asked to pay the suggested 50-cent fare.”