A handful of Jersey City elected officials and community leaders took their concerns about four A&C Bus routes discontinuing in two months to an NJ Transit Operations and Customer Service Committee meeting this morning.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“The termination of the A&C Bus service will have a devastating impact on vulnerable communities in Marion Duncan and Society Hill sections that have no other mass transit option,” Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’De (D-2), a potential 2025 candidate for mayor, said during public comment.
“As someone who had represented the area effected for most of my life, I know how
it will effect their livelihoods and access to shopping in an area that is a food desert.
NJ Transit must put in place to continue these services at the same level in the interim while a permanent solution is developed. A&C needs to be converted from an independent bus line to a contract bus line then that should be considered.”
O’Dea sponsored a county resolution earlier this month urging state leaders and NJ Transit to assist with ensuring that there is no break in bus service in these areas.
A&C, a private bus company, announced about a month ago that they would be going out of business, effectively ending four crucial bus routes that service Jersey City’s West Side.
Those are the 30, 31, 32, and 33 – which service Society Hill, Montgomery Street and West Side Avenues, Route 440 Shopper, and Bergen Avenue – respectively.
Local activist Amy Wilson, who is spearheading an Action Network petition to state leaders, said outright that she was calling to beg NJ Transit to take over the four aforementioned routes that will end on Halloween.
“The West Side is a mostly working class area that has not benefitted from much of the gentrification that has been synonymous with Jersey City over the last decade, and we lag behind downtown and other neighborhoods in terms of economic development and opportunity,” she said.
“I fear that the cancellation of this service with nothing in place to pick up the pieces will deal a fatal blow to an area of our city that represents tens of thousands of residents and is in no way less worthy than our more wealthy counterparts in other parts of the city.”
She also noted that residents on the West Side work essential jobs at restaurants and hospitals, as well as housekeepers, child care providers, and home health aides, among other things, who depend on bus service and don’t have the ability to buy a car on a whim.
Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey, who sponsored a city council resolution similar to what O’Dea introduced at the county, reiterated that the 80 bus services up to 5,000 people a day, which shows this is a critical for many working families.
“I represent a great section of the area that is going to be affected by the termination of the A&C Bus line and I’m here this morning to ask you to take over … The bus is the only line of public transportation on this side of the city,” she said.
“The populations especially effected are low income, teenagers who can’t drive, and senior citizens who can not take an Uber to their destination. We have to have a plan in place, short term and long term, to ensure that service continues.”
Caterina Peters, a founding board member of the Lincoln Park North Association, said they were completely caught off guard when they heard critical A&C Bus service would be winding down in short order.
” … In the Lincoln Park North community, this move will effectively cut us off from almost all public transit options currently available. Such amputation from Jersey City’s public transit system will devastate this community – its elders, essential workers, parents, and so many others that rely on public transit to meet their most basic needs,” she explained.
“It is imperative that NJ Transit actively engage the communities impacted — like ours, where the impact will be profound – and demonstrate the leadership required to replace, if not enhance, public transportation service to the West Side.”
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop had an aide call in his behalf, reading excerpts of a letter he sent to A&C at the beginning of this month calling for NJ Transit to take over.
“Part of my #FixNJ plan for transportation is phasing out these private operators the reality is most transit systems lose money and that is the expectation but they provide other important benefits like economic development and quality of life,” Fulop told HCV.
“For NJT to trust a private vendor that is focused only on their bottom line is a fundament disconnect between NJT and their model of contractor with private vendors. This needs to change.”
The final public speaker on this topic was Hudson County Complete Streets President Emmanuelle Morgan, who said that NJ Transit could significantly increase and improve ridership by taking over these routes.
“ … I think that what we’re really asking for is for NJ Transit to take over A&C’s four Bus lines and modernize them like other lines so that real time bus tracking is possible, increasing ridership. We’ve seen an increase in ridership in the 119 in the Heights and this is what we anticipate if NJ Transit takes over the A&C Bus lines.”
NJ Transit Senior Vice President of Surface Transit Michael Kilcoyne said that the agency shares their concerns regarding A&C’s “disappointing decision,” noting that they are currently evaluating when and how passengers are riding.
He also said this was difficult since A&C has not kept ridership statistics in a clearly defined way.
“We’re also identifying what alternatives already exist in NJ Transit services. We run wheel to wheel in the very same neighborhoods and we know many of these riders … We have some constraints in our available resources and we’ll do everything we can to assist those riders that are impacted by these decisions.”