Access to transit is a major selling point for real estate developments. In Hoboken, an increasing number of residential buildings offer shuttles to the city’s main transit hub. These shuttles can streamline trips with luggage or strollers, and keep people dry during rainstorms, or warm in winter, but they also contribute to congestion on Hoboken’s Streets, aren’t open to everyone, and draw people away who might otherwise ride The Hop, Hoboken’s municipal shuttle. NJ.com reported that 2015 expenses for the Hop totaled $332,000, with a fare box recovery of $74,335, or 22%. That’s dismally low for a city in which 57.6% of residents use public transit, the highest percentage in the country.
Reimagined Hop service that is more frequent, reaches the residential developments that currently run private shuttles, and has extended operating hours beyond the current 7AM-8PM service could get real estate developments out of the business of running overlapping, redundant transit services, cut congestion on Hoboken’s streets, and provide significant benefits to both the general public and the residents of these developments.
The reimagined Hop would be funded by the city entering into agreements with property owners of residential developments to subsidize the service on a sliding scale depending on the number of units in each development. Developments that opt out of an agreement to help subsidize expanded Hop service would be subject to a special transit assessment that would he higher than they would otherwise pay under an agreement. The bottom line is this: real estate developments would no longer be allowed to operate private shuttles in Hoboken that only benefit the residents of those developments, and would be incentivized to replace their private services with participation in a citywide public transit option that better serves their residents along with everyone else.
The Hop’s current $1 fare would be eliminated, for three reasons: 1) people who live in developments with private resident shuttles are already accustomed to a complimentary shuttle, 2) the awkward logistics of collecting a $1 fare from riders boarding at existing Hop stops, while not collecting a fare from riders boarding at residential developments, and 3) The Hop’s existing 22% fare box recovery ratio isn’t high enough to justify the current $1 fare. Making The Hop free would entice more people to use it for trips where they might otherwise drive, thus further reducing congestion on Hoboken’s streets.
With residential developments providing the operating subsidy for The Hop, the City of Hoboken could use its existing $250,000 annual municipal subsidy to acquire an iconic new fleet of low-floor minibuses, like the Karsan CS. This would make The Hop instantly recognizable as Hoboken’s hyperlocal transit backbone, and improve accessibility for less physically-abled users. A reimagined Hop would better serve as a first/last mile connection for everyone who already uses other modes of public transit, and potentially attract new transit riders, while cementing Hoboken’s reputation as an innovative urban leader.