A dollar van (also known as a jitney) is a privately owned type of bus service used to carry passengers in the United States. Dollar vans are typically modified passenger vans, and often operate in urban neighborhoods that are under-served by public mass transit or taxis. Some of the dollar vans are licensed and regulated, while others operate illegally. Passengers may board them at designated stops along their route or hail them as share taxis.
Both common names – dollar van and jitney – originated similarly. Jitney is an archaic term for an American nickel, the common fare for early jitneys. In the late 20th century, when a typical fare was one dollar, the corresponding name came into usage, though "jitney" is still also common.
Dollar vans are often owned and used by members of inner-city communities, such as African/Caribbean American, Latino, and Asian-American populations. Travelers cite cost and greater frequency as factors in choosing jitneys over larger bus service, whereas safety and comfort are cited for choosing buses.
In New York City, dollar vans serve major areas that lack adequate subway service. The vans pick up and drop off anywhere along a route, and payment is made at the end of a trip. During periods when even limited public mass transit is unavailable, such as the January 2005 Green Bus Lines and Command Bus Company strike or the December 2005 New York City transit strike, dollar vans may become the only feasible method of transportation for many commuters. In such situations, city governments may pass legislation to deter price gouging.
Northern New Jersey has a number of companies running dollar vans, often following similar routes to New Jersey Transit buses but at a slightly lower price and greater frequency. The most common routes have an eastern terminus on street level in Manhattan, either near the Port Authority Bus Terminal or the George Washington Bridge Bus Station. Often, several different companies ply the same route.