The project, a joint effort between Camden Community Partnership and Via Transportation, offers first-mile/last-mile travel within the city limits for $2 a ride. The service is free until July 17.
By Matt Skoufalos | July 13, 2023
Camden City residents now have access to a new, low-cost option for traveling around the city.
Camden Loop, an on-demand, microtransit service created by Camden Community Partnership and Via Transportation, and seeded with money from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) is intended to help low-income residents meet their transportation needs.
By offering a flexible first-and-last-mile, shared commuting option within the city, Camden Loop coordinators believe the service can eliminate residents’ accessibility barriers to employment, regional travel, and other needs.
Camden Community Partnership President and CEO Dana Redd described Camden Loop as a project “focused on equity” and “resolving social determinants of health” by offering low-cost connections to mass transit, shopping, and work.
Camden Loop operates 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, with service anywhere within the city, as well as to the NJ Transit Station at the Garden State Pavilion in Cherry Hill.
Users can book through the Camden Loop smartphone app, or by calling 856-408-1699. Rides are free until July 17, and $2 apiece thereafter. Redd said all fare revenues will be reinvested in the program to expand it.
Camden Loop launched in June with a $2 million grant from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA), which was supplemented with an additional $4.2 million in the 2023 state budget.
Redd said those dollars should extend its operations for a few years to come.
The vehicle fleet comprises Honda Odyssey and Chrysler Pacifica minivans, two of which are wheelchair-accessible.
Camden Loop riders are picked up at “virtual bus stops” within a block of their location. Those without access to a bank card or smartphone may buy rides with vouchers as well as in bundles.
Eric Gardiner, Director of East Coast Partnerships for Via, said the transit technology company has formed microtransit partnerships like Camden Loop in 600 communities worldwide. Among its most successful implementations, Via Jersey City has logged 1.5 million rides since January 2020.
By comparison, the nine-mile Camden Loop service has completed 3,500 rides at an average utilization rate of 5 rides per vehicle hour since June, Gardiner said.
“We want to create a public transit system that’s as easy and comfortable as riding in a car and as affordable as taking the bus,” he said. “We think it’ll transform the way residents and visitors interact with their community.”
Council President Angel Fuentes commended Camden Loop for hiring Camden residents — 19 of its 24 workers are locals, and wages start at $22 per hour — as well as for advertising the service in English and Spanish, with planned translations into Vietnamese.
“This ensures that language is not a barrier to accessibility,” Fuentes said.
Loticia Ferguson of North Camden has been driving with Camden Loop since the program rolled out.
“The pay is nice,” Ferguson said; “the customers are nice.
“I like customer service and taking care of people,” she said.
Ferguson said her fares are “doing everything,” with the service, including going to doctors’ appointments, the grocery store, and laundromat.
Camden City Mayor Vic Carstarphen said Camden Loop reflected the commitment of his administration to building a strong workforce, supporting the employability of residents, and improving overall quality of life in the city.
“It’s an affordable, reliable, convenient way to get to work,” Carstarphen said.
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