Why Do Regulated Jitney Services Often Fail? Evidence from the New York City Group Ride Vehicle Project

This research is informed by a policy experiment. In June 2010, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) reduced or eliminated service on dozens of bus routes in throughout the city. These cuts, coupled with higher transit fares, dramatically reduced transit access for many city residents. Shortly after the service reductions went into effect, the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) announced the Group Ride Vehicle Pilot Project to bring commuter van (jitney) service to five service areas left without regular bus service. The TLC anticipated that the Group Ride Vehicle (GRV) project would mimic the success of existing jitney services and provide transit access for people without any. The pilot project targeted service areas in Brooklyn and Queens and the TLC received commitments from five existing commuter van operators for the project. Once announced, the project was controversial for multiple reasons, including the City’s willingness to privatize transit service with licensed but non-union van service and equity considerations for passengers who had to pay two fares to get into Manhattan. The first GRV licensed vans began service in September 2010, and despite optimism from operators and the TLC, the program was unofficially discontinued after a few months, and the second phase was never implemented. Though the GRV failed to attract riders, it highlighted the overall importance of commuter vans for certain transit dependent populations and suggests many challenges to formalizing informal transit in the United States. Using the TLC Group Ride Vehicle project as the starting point, the authors explore why informal jitneys in the United States succeed, and whether the conditions under which jitney services prosper are compatible with conventional transit operations. Focus groups with operators, unstructured interviews with drivers and riders and participant observation are used to help explain the challenges facing the formalization of jitney services in a mature city. The qualitative analysis suggests may reasons the GRV project failed: a lack of subsidy to maintain service and build demand, a two-month gap between the bus service cuts and jitney service implementation, poorly branded service, and confusing language used to describe the program. The authors argue that some of these reasons are more perceived than real, but all of these reasons reflect the difficulty in transitioning niche jitney service to general purpose transit service.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Figures; Photos; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 20p
  • Monograph Title: TRB 92nd Annual Meeting Compendium of Papers

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01479244
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: 13-3918
  • Files: TRIS, TRB, ATRI
  • Created Date: Feb 5 2013 12:46PM