What is a Jitney?
A jitney is a vehicle for public transportation with the combined features of a taxicab and a bus. Jitney’s are like buses because many passengers can fit it inside and routes are usually fixed. It is also similar to taxis because detours are allowed along the entire route.
The word “jitney” has its roots from the 5-cents coin or the nickel. Back in 1914, where the first jitneys were seen in Los Angeles, the original fare was 5-cents. “Jitney” became some form of a slang word for the fare and somehow the name stuck to the vehicle over the years. With its first appearance in L.A. the year before, jitneys became popular across the U.S. in the year 1915. It also reached the east coast of New York in the same year and became a media sensation. The New York Times then even commented that jitneys were so popular that they are “sweeping the nation”.
Jitneys were loved because, first and foremost, the fares were cheap. They were also considered as fast as taxis, but for a lower price when compared with street cars and buses of the past. Some jitneys were small and some could accommodate up to about thirty persons on board. Routes usually pass through major business districts where people work and shop, transport terminals for buses and airplanes, and residential communities. To justify a jitney trip, drivers usually require a minimum number of passengers. Similar to buses and taxis of today, people can schedule jitneys ahead of time for exclusive trips and for trips to the airport in which it is common for people to have lots of luggage to carry.
Many transportation companies thrived during the heydays of jitney. But due to monopolies in some areas, public support waned down over the years. The jitney eventually gave way to the buses and taxis we have today on our roads.