Senior Bus Operating, Needs More Riders

The twice-weekly bus offers cheap transport around the village.

If you need a ride, just ask Harry. The former village police officer and undersheriff started his new job last month, and he wants to give you a ride.

Harry Shortway, Jr., 72, operates the twice-weekly senior bus that loops in and around the village.

Spearheaded by Assistant to the Village Manager Janet Fricke, the service provides a set route every Tuesday and reserved pick-ups on Thursday for the suggested donation of $1.

Plus, you get to hang out with Shortway.

"The seniors love me," he says, waving at former police colleagues and fellow bus drivers as he passes. "If they take a cab to go out, it's $5 plus tip. And that's one-way."

Shortway, also a Midland Park school bus driver and class police two officer, was hired by the village to drive in September.

Since he's started, though, business has been slow. In its first month, the bus serviced only about 50 costumers, Fricke says. Now, four to 10 people ride along with Shortway on Tuesday.

"I believe if people find out about it and get into it, they'll start riding more," he says.

Those who do ride, love it.

Mary Smith calls herself the service's "first lady. I don't drive myself, so it's a great convenience. There's always something you need on a Tuesday," the Corsa Terrace resident says. "I love it."

Shortway even gives Smith a little special treatment.

"Mary has a problem walking, so I come right to her house," he says.

She met Marie Hackett at the Stop and Shop today. "A lot of my friends ride it all the time," Hackett says.

Hackett is a regular from the Ridge Crest Housing community, as is Korean War veteran Jim Lavin.

Greeting his fellow Marine Shortway, Lavin—a retired lawyer—consults with Shortway on the best time to get back on.

"It's great," Lavin says. "I'm going to the library to take out a ton of books."

Fricke says she's trying to get the word out to seniors any way she can.

In addition to speaking at several retirement communities, she's showed off the bus at village events. Every chance she gets, Fricke tells seniors to get on the bus, if even just to ride around.

People have taken her up on it.

"Sometimes people just get on the bus, and go for a ride," Shortway says. 

The established route starts at Ridge Crest at 9:30 a.m., makes its way to Stop and Shop, down East Ridgewood Avenue, to Valley Hospital, to Village Hall near the Community Center, and back toward Ridge Crest. The entire loop takes about an hour. A complete schedule is available here.

On Thursday, the bus runs by request only. People need to call the Village Hall Reception Desk (201-670-5500, extension 200) to reserve a ride. Shortway says he's driven people to the doctors, grocery store, and even a group of 10 elderly women to Paramus Park for lunch.

"They say they want me to go to Kurth Cottage next," he says of Valley Hospital's restaurant.

Safety is ever on the driver's mind, as he instructs people to wear seat belts and tries to drop people off in less traversed areas. The bus even has a wheelchair lift in the back, although Shortway says no one has requested its use yet.

The father of eight and grandfather to 13 says people can even wave him down on the side of the road. All they have to do is ask.

Heather C. Lightbody December 25, 2009 at 03:26 PM


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