In a 2007 national seminar, Cascade Policy Institute’s Wheels to Wealth program promoted the idea of allowing jitneys to replace low-ridership public buses. A form of mass transit, a jitney is a car or van which is not required to run on a fixed route and schedule. Cascade followed this proposal with a publication on jitneys, which was widely circulated within TriMet but then quickly rejected by the transit agency.
Now West CAP, a community action agency in Wisconsin, is taking up the jitney idea. West CAP is starting a pilot program in the town of Barron in which they are promoting jitneys to help the local Somali Association’s transportation needs.
In collaboration with the local workforce group, the Somali Association is purchasing two small vans from West CAP’s JumpStart program. (JumpStart facilitates automobile purchases by public assistance households.) West CAP will contract with part-time drivers and other community organizations for related services like paying for shared rides.
Interestingly, West CAP drivers will be allowed to use the vehicles as entrepreneurs to provide services on their own, such as weekend trips to Minneapolis.
West CAP’s experimentation with jitneys is one example of how innovative transportation policy ideas are repeatedly rejected in Oregon and embraced in other states. Perhaps, Oregon does not like good ideas after all.