Save the jitneys!

Few people would be willing to turn down a free ride, particularly to a casino. But the Atlantic City Jitney Association is hoping that Harrah’s patrons will. At least that’s the story according to the AC Press:

The drivers of the resort’s 190 jitneys are taking their campaign against a new casino shuttle to the streets.


The Atlantic City Jitney Association announced Tuesday it is placing posters on each bus saying, “Don’t let Harrah’s crush AC jitney transportation. Just say no to Harrah’s shuttle.” The yellow placards picture a huge gorilla sitting on top of a jitney.

The association has also printed 20,000 postcards that drivers will hand out for riders to sign.

At issue are the free shuttle buses Harrah’s Entertainment rolled out last month to ferry gamblers back and forth among the company’s four Atlantic City casinos. The ride is free to anyone who shows a Total Rewards players-club card.

Jitney drivers say their fare revenues have gone down 35 to 50 percent since the Harrah’s shuttles started running Oct. 16.

“We cannot and will not sit back and simply allow Harrah’s to put a 90-year-old Atlantic City tradition out of business,” association President Emmanuel “Manny” Mathioudakis said Tuesday in a released statement.

The 13-seat buses have been running in the resort since 1915. Drivers purchase a franchise, own and maintain their buses and keep the fares they collect.

The jitney drivers are also taking their message to the Internet, where their Web site, urges readers to boycott Harrah’s Entertainment casinos, refuse to ride the shuttle and send letters to Harrah’s executives and state and local legislators.

Jitneys launch ‘Just Say No’ campaign in Atlantic City

Jitneys are an Atlantic City institution that goes way back. I wrote an article that talks about their origins in Casino Connection. They are a vital part of the city’s unique character. Plus, it’s great trying to explain to outsiders (formerly known as shoobies) what the phrase, “I’ve got to go catch my jitney” means. Usually when I regale people with tales of the Jersey Shore, I quietly elide “jitney” to “bus,” because there’s nothing like breaking the narrative flow of a pointless story with a five-minute dissertation on the evolution of privately-owned public transportation in the World’s Playground.

Seriously, next time you’re in Atlantic City, you’ve got to ride a jitney, even if you’ve already got a car in town. I think, though, that most casino patrons will pick the free ride over a slice of Atlantic City heritage.

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