Since they were established in the late 19th Century, rolling chairs have been both a popular means of traveling along the Atlantic City Boardwalk as well as an integral part of the city’s history. But now several rolling chair operators say their line of work could be in jeopardy thanks to another form of transportation.
Starting Thursday, the local Jitney Association will begin their trial run of jitney trams on the AC boardwalk. The test period will last until May 2 and will feature one battery-powered boardwalk jitney tram on a route from the Revel Casino Hotel to the Tropicana. If successful, officials say there could be up to 10 trams on the boardwalk during the summer.
“We’re not trying to put anybody out of work,” said Tom Woodruff, president of the Atlantic City Jitney Association. "We think the rolling chairs are an Atlantic City icon. It’s something unique and we think we can coexist.”
Officials with Ocean Rolling Chair and Atlantic City Boardwalk Rolling Chairs disagree however. They claim that their businesses are already struggling and that the introduction of jitney trams on the boardwalk will only make their situation worse. The jitney tram car would cost $3.00 a ride, cheaper than the $5.00 minimum for rolling chair rides every six blocks.
“For all of these operators, the deck is stacked against them,” said Joel Schwartz, an attorney representing the rolling chair companies.
Officials with the rolling chair companies filed a civil complaint and tried to convince a judge to stop the trial run. They argued that the city council had no right to allow the trial period because the boardwalk is part of the state-run tourism district and therefore falls under the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority(CRDA).
“I think it’s horrendous,” said John Taimanglo of Ocean Rolling Chairs. “I think that whole council should be arrested.”
Atlantic City officials say the council was within their right however.
“I don’t believe the CRDA has chosen to preempt our right to regulate,” said Michael Perugini, the Assistant City Solicitor for Atlantic City.
Ultimately, Judge Raymond Batten ruled that there was no proof of any adverse financial consequences from the tram’s trial run and refused to halt it. That means the trams will roll out as scheduled on Thursday.
“I don’t think it was fair,” Taimanglo said. “I don’t think it was right.”
If the test run is successful, rolling chair operators say they will continue their fight to stop more trams from hitting the boardwalk.