In a letter to the editor, Emmanuelle Morgen, Tyler Newcomb, Talya Schwartz, and Andrew Schwalm – the West Siders for Safe Streets and Transit – explain why NJ Transit must rise to the occasion with A&C Bus service ending soon.
We are a group of West Siders pushing for safe streets and improved transit, and like many of our neighbors, we rely on transit to get to our jobs, schools, and run other critical errands.
The coming closure of A&C’s four bus lines on October 31st threatens to exacerbate existing transportation inequities for the West Side and for south Jersey City.
These buses provide much-needed transportation options for those who are distant from higher-quality transit solutions, like the PATH and the Light-Rail.
The pending cancellation of these bus lines is not just a risk but also an opportunity for the state, county, and NJ Transit to fix what was an already inequitable and insufficient bus service for residents on the West Side and in south Jersey City.
Let’s not overly romanticize the current A&C bus service; they run as infrequently as once per hour; fares are cash-and-exact-change-only; there are no listed intermediate stop times, and unlike NJ Transit buses there is no real-time tracking to see the location of a bus.
One example of the gap in frequency is the A&C Montgomery bus line, which connects important destinations like West Side Ave, St. Peters University, and Lincoln Park with Downtown Jersey City, yet only runs once an hour.
In contrast, a single private building, the Beacon, runs a private shuttle service between Montgomery and Grove St PATH every 5 minutes in the morning.
We ask that NJ Transit take over these bus lines and also take it as an opportunity to improve service and attract more riders.
For example, with recent reliability and frequency improvements, the 80 and 119 buses alone now serve well over 10K riders daily.
Most urgently, we ask that leaders do not repeat the mistakes of the past. When the A&C bus 4 line shut down in 2019, many elected leaders demanded that NJ Transit fix the problem, but the result was the grafting of bus 4 to a completely unrelated bus 86 route.
The result of this Pac-Man-circling-around-the-
Service needs to be efficient, frequent, direct and comfortable to be effective and encourage ridership. NJ Transit should keep and improve the A&C bus routes with modern payment and tracking systems, and substantially grow the frequency of the buses.
We also applaud recent efforts of NJ Transit to greatly increase bus service frequency and reliability in Hudson County. When NJ Transit took over bus route No. 10, ridership increased 52%.
There’s a lot of work to do, but with nearly 40% of Jersey City households without access to a car, the opportunity here is tremendous.
By working together, Hudson County and NJ Transit can do even more. Commissioner O’Dea has given his strong support for bus lanes on JFK Blvd.
And NJ Transit has already offered to run many more buses on JFK Blvd if given a dedicated bus lane throughout the county.
This could substantially reduce congestion and connect the residents of the county to their jobs, families, and recreation.
Hudson County must play a pivotal role in ensuring that the NJ Transit buses have access to dedicated bus lanes, enabling them to fulfill their potential in serving the community effectively.
Dedicated bus lanes are an enormous opportunity that is being adopted at a rapid clip by cities around the US that improves the overall passenger capacity of the lane by 10X.
By providing faster and more reliable service that is immune to traffic gridlock, bus lanes also reduce operational costs.
The same drivers and same buses can serve more riders in the same amount of time. Bus lanes could also speed up emergency response vehicles, school buses, Acces-a-Link, Hudson County’s senior bus service, and Jersey City’s Via microtransit service.
We ask that NJ Transit, Hudson County, and Jersey City work together with urgency to substantially grow and invest in our mass transportation services especially in communities that are underserved by PATH or light rail.
Emmanuelle Morgen, Tyler Newcomb, Talya Schwartz, Andrew Schwalm
West Siders for Safe Streets and Transit