The Flushing-Chinatown van run is an example of a thick market. You could say that the subway provides an anchor, but it's a very inconvenient one: if you give up on the van you have to walk three blocks north to the subway, and then take that to another subway that might not go exactly where you want to go. These vans really function without any anchor.
The vans from Bergenline Avenue to the Port Authority are an example of a thin market. The New Jersey Transit 156 and 159 buses provide scheduled service in case the vans don't come; I've used them myself. They are run by NJ Transit, but they could probably be run at a profit by a private company.
|Thick market||Ridership can sustain a jitney cascade without an anchor||Flushing-Chinatown|
|Thin market||Ridership can sustain a jitney cascade with an anchor||Bergenline-Port Authority|
This doesn't capture other possibilities, though. What about a line in some far-flung sprawl suburb where car ownership is very high and roads are wide? For example, Dutchess County Loop A. A line like that is never going to make a profit as long as those conditions persist. To exist, it must remain subsidized until gas prices rise above eight dollars a gallon. Let's call it "No market."
There's also a scenario in between Loop A and the Bergenline Avenue buses, where jitneys can run with an anchor, but the ridership doesn't provide a profit for the anchor, so it has to be subsidized. The Bergenline Avenue buses that go across the George Washington Bridge may be an example of that. Let's call it a "Wafer-thin market."
I would argue that most of the routes chosen by the TLC for their pilot program are wafer-thin markets. Due to competition from parallel routes and private cars, they cannot support profitable transit by themselves, but they may be able to support a jitney cascade if they have a subsidized anchor.
The B39 route across the Williamsburg Bridge had potential to be a thin market. If it were better marketed, it might have worked. The only one that had the potential to be a truly thick market was the B71, if it had been extended through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. It could have provided Red Hook and Carroll Gardens residents with a one-seat ride to Financial District job sites, possibly being time-competitive against the subway. I guess we'll have to wait to see that one tried.
Here's our new table:
|Market type||Description||Existing example||Potential TLC route|
|Thick market||Ridership can sustain a jitney cascade without an anchor||Flushing-Chinatown||B71 through Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel|
|Thin market||Ridership can sustain a jitney cascade with a profitable anchor||Bergenline-Port Authority||B39|
|Wafer-thin market||Ridership can sustain a jitney cascade with a subsidized anchor||Bergenline-GWB||B23, B71, Q74, Q79|
|No market||Ridership cannot sustain jitney service, even with a subsidized anchor||Dutchess Loop A|
Notice that I've still put the Q79 up as a wafer-thin market. The TLC has put that route out for bid, but I really don't think there's enough ridership to support it without some kind of subsidized anchor. It's great that Bob Friedrich is still fighting for service on Little Neck Parkway, but his best bet is to try to find some funding to subsidize the service. It's just not going to work without subsidies unless there are other drastic changes in the neighborhood.