You Shore don't need a car at the beach these days

PHOTOS: ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Canadian tourists Evelyn Cox (right) and her daughter Linda ride electric scooters they rented from Resorts Casino to get around on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.
PHOTOS: ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Canadian tourists Evelyn Cox (right) and her daughter Linda ride electric scooters they rented from Resorts Casino to get around on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.
Posted: May 16, 2014

BACK IN 1850, Dr. Jonathan Pitney, an open-air enthusiast, saw an opening to turn Absecon Island into a health resort, if only he could get people from those polluted cities of Philadelphia and Camden there. He got a heady civil engineer, Richard Osborne, to build a train line over to the place - which Osborne renamed "Atlantic City" - and by the 1870s, a half-million shoobies were coming there each summer by train.

Rail-line conductor Alexander Boardman proposed a newfangled way of getting the people to the beach itself from the station - a "Boardwalk." Atlantic City spent half its tax revenue in 1870 to build it, and the resort's future was secure.

For the last century or so, though, most Shoregoers have been traveling to the beaches from Brigantine to Cape May by car, and even the less-lazy among them often get around in their own vehicles.

Yet there are ways to get to South Jersey beach towns without a car - not just get there but get around, too, especially in Atlantic City, but increasingly in the more southerly and posher islands.

Well-trained

New Jersey Transit is the primary means of travel from Philadelphia and interior New Jersey to the beach. Unfortunately, you can no longer, as the "Chance" card in the Monopoly set says, "take a ride on the Reading" to Atlantic City. But New Jersey trains leave Philadelphia's 30th Street Station 12 times a day and meet up with high-speed line trains in Lindenwold along the way down. (Other stops are in Pennsauken, Cherry Hill, Atco, Hammonton, Egg Harbor City and Absecon.)

Fares are rock-bottom.

It's $10 for adults and $4.50 for seniors and kids from Philadelphia, and a mere $5 for adults and $2.25 for seniors and kids from Lindenwold.

Once you get to Atlantic City, there is a free shuttle from the station to the Boardwalk casinos that meets every train. The shuttle picks up a half-hour before each train departure.

All a-Board

Over on the Boardwalk, there is a new jitney service this year with modernistic, many-windowed, 15-passenger, battery-powered vehicles that ply the boards 12 hours a day for $3 a ride (less than the $5 for the possibly more romantic rolling chairs). Travel this way from the Revel in the Inlet to the Tropicana near Chelsea Avenue.

Regular jitneys in town run four routes, primarily plying Pacific Avenue and fanning out to other parts of the city for $2.25 cash fare (a mere 75 cents for seniors).

On the way to . . .

To get to Cape May and other points south, New Jersey Transit buses go at least three times a day on various routes from Atlantic City - some between islands, some down Route 9 going in and out along the causeways, some along the islands, stopping at a few places along the way.

The biggest fare is $5.25 from Atlantic City to Cape May, but the zone fares in between can be as little as a couple bucks.

Once you settle into the resorts south of Absecon Island (and Cape May on the peninsula), each town has a summer inter-island means of public transportation. Sea Isle City, Avalon and Stone Harbor have their own late-afternoon and evening jitney services (see accompanying article).

Cape May, the Wildwoods and Ocean City use the Great American Trolley Co. from late June through Labor Day.

In Wildwood and Ocean City, the company uses 30- to 40-seat, old-timey-looking rubber-tire trolleys on routes primarily hugging the beach, said company president Dick Adelizzi, who reasons, "That is where people want to go, so that is where we provide them a ride so they don't have to drive."

In Ocean City, the trolleys run every 20 minutes mostly along Atlantic and Central up to Battersea near the bridge in the north and through the commercial section of town in the south. In the Wildwoods, they run primarily along Atlantic and Ocean avenues. Grab a trolley in these resorts from midafternoon to midnight. Fares are $2.50.

Cape May is a little different, in that smaller trolleys service the downtown and the bed-and-breakfasts, starting at noon until about 11 p.m. Just $1 gets you a seat.

"We have it so you can call the drivers directly" to see where they are, Adelizzi said, adding that the drivers will have hands-free communications. "Tourists don't like to wait, so we try to do what we can to get them where they want to go."

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