As more establishments begin to distribute coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines, getting to COVID-19 vaccine sites can be an issue for those who lack access to private transportation. The New Jersey Travel Independence Program (NJTIP) @ Rutgers created a list, funded by NJ Transit, to help people find public transportation that will take them to COVID-19 vaccine distributors.
The list details vaccine sites by county, whether they are accessible by public transportation and which buses people can take to get to them. Karen Alexander, managing director of the NJTIP @ Rutgers, said NJ Transit did not offer a list of vaccination sites that people can get to via public transportation, but is now using the list developed by NJTIP @ Rutgers.
“In looking at the challenges of COVID-19, we saw the opportunity where we could take what we know and use it in a way that could be very beneficial,” she said.
Alexander said the list required extensive research, with the NJTIP @ Rutgers drawing from various sources online and consulting local area specialists to confirm its findings.
“There (are) a lot of layers that you have to look at,” said Louis Hoffman, a training coordinator of the NJTIP @ Rutgers. “In most cases, we would start out at njtransit.com, and we’d search the address using (its) ‘Service Near a Location’ tool ... We would follow up by looking on Google Maps and searching for local bus stops, and then, we'd also look at the local transit schedules and transit maps that are available for the different parts of the state.”
The web page for the list provides links to other resources for planning trips online as well, helping clear up some of the confusion surrounding public transportation, Alexander said.
The list can help people make their COVID-19 vaccine trips more efficient, she said. For instance, someone might recognize a bus route on the list that they already use to get to a certain location and realize they can use it to get to a vaccine site as well.
In addition, the closest site may not be the most convenient in that it could be three miles away but take four buses to get there, Alexander said. She said the list will be updated regularly.
Hoffman said indicating how people can reach their destinations through public transit in New Jersey is a way to make the public transit system feel more accessible.
“We work specifically with people with disabilities and older adults, but we also realize that this list was a great way to reach out to other transit-dependent populations and not just help our niche population but really anybody that rides transit and could use a vaccine,” he said. “Especially those frontline (healthcare) workers, people who are not compensated for their jobs as well. For them to be able to get to a site seems like a good mission for us.”
Editor's Note: This article was updated to state NJ Transit funded the list created by NJTIP @ Rutgers and has since begun using it.