West New York Mayor Felix Roque greeted commuters at the intersection of 60th Street and Boulevard East this morning to let them know that NJ Transit is increasing the number of their express buses from eight to 13 during rush hour.
In an interview, Roque explained he had a constructive meeting last week with NJ Transit officials John Del Colle, Senior Director of Legislative Relations, and Robert Bigg Jr., Acting Deputy General Manager for Bus Service Planning, to begin the new service, which will pick up commuters starting from 60th Street to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, this week.
“I can tell you it was a very positive meeting, so we are actually able now to acquire 13 new buses, starting from 60th Street, that’s going to cover Route 128, and they call that express buses. It’s going to be actually easier and quicker time frame for the residents to get to New York City,” said Roque.
According to the mayor, NJ Transit has agreed to add larger tandem buses, which have 17 additional seats per bus along River Road, and would also run buses every two minutes along Boulevard East during peak hours.
While we were waiting for the press conference to start, approximately 25 people were waiting for a bus for at least 15 minutes before the Route 166 bus stopped at a red light just before the bus stop.
As it approached the stop, commuters expressed frustration when they saw the LED display at the top of the bus announcing, “Standing Room Only.”
Roque noted in his conversations with commuters that NJ Transit informed him last week that the nation’s third largest transportation agency currently has a bus driver shortage statewide, which is apparently contributing to the long wait times at 60th Street and Boulevard East.
We spoke to several residents waiting to commute to New York for their reaction to the new express bus routes.
Louis Rivero said it’ll it make a big difference in his commute.
“I think it’s an amazing idea. Yes, sometimes you have to wait maybe 25 minutes, you’re rushing to work, you know how people wake up late. But it’s a great idea to have that type of bus service that will take us into New York quicker, and that’ll be awesome.”
Vivienne Ragan seconded Rivero’s sentiments.
“I’ll be happy because I’m waiting here 10 minutes sometimes and I like to take NJ Transit more over the other buses because it’s faster, so hopefully they’ll get them to run better, especially at this time of the day,” she said.
And finally, Yusef Tazout said West New York definitely needs more frequent buses.
“West New York is getting a lot of people moving down here, especially 60th Street. And I feel like we don’t have a lot of buses around here. We need something new, so another express bus to Manhattan will be really good.”
NJ Transit spokesman Nathan Rudy at first clarified that for the 128 line, three runs have been added in the morning and two in the afternoon.
Then on Wednesday evening, he sent another statement providing more detail indicating that turn
â€œNJ TRANSIT added five bus runs on Boulevard East in January 2019 following adding four additional runs on River Road in 2018. In each case, NJ TRANSIT heard from Congressman Sires and Weehawken Mayor Turner about crowding on the bus lines and subsequently worked to better align service with demand,” the statement read.
While NJ Transit did not return an inquiry asking if Roque had any role in the matter, but Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner said he did not.
“It takes a long time for NJ Transit to change their routes and get their drivers. It took probably 18 months to negotiate this all. You just don’t snap your fingers to get bus routes changed. Nothing happens with NJ Transit in a week or two,” Turner said, stating it’s still not enough and they’re still working with the agency on more improvements.
Roque is seeking his third term in the May 14th municipal elections, where 16 candidates will be on the ballot, seeking five seats on the board of commissioners.
His chief opposition, the New Beginnings West New York slate headed by Public Safety Commissioner Gabriel Rodriguez, is backed by Sires
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with a second comment from NJ Transit and Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner.