For the first time in 2 years, the NJ Transit board met in person on April 13, 2022. Much was the same: security check-in, label, escort to the 9th floor—yet there were changes: speaker check-in was done online before the meeting, for both phone and in-person speakers; in person, there was not the usual 2 sign-in sheets, speakers and attendees, but only an attendance sign-in sheet. No stacks of paper; similar reliance on the online agenda. The conduct of the meeting was familiar, and it was nice to see more than the portraits of board members, but to actually see them in person. Joyce Zuczek was missing, but Meghan Umukoro did an excellent job of conducting the meeting. During the public comment period, the main difference came after the in-person speakers: there were a number of people calling in via telephone—a welcome addition.
The town of Livingston, which has no direct rail service, plans to institute a “jitney” feeder service from the Livingston Mall to the South Orange station of NJ Transit”s Morris and Essex Lines; the new service is expected to start in September. There will be 2 services each hour during weekday peak periods: 6–10 a.m. and 4–9 p.m.; the one-way fare will be $2.
Including with a monthly commutation ticket on the railroad ($193), the total cost to commuters will be $277, according to Mike Frassinelli’s report in the Star-Ledger (July 25). The competition is Community Coach’s #77 bus line, which has come under fire for poor service; a bus pass costs $314, significantly higher than the new jitney-rail option.
The Lackawanna Coalition believes that feeder services and coordinated rail-bus services form an essential part of an effective public transportation system.
As a result of a first-of-its-kind exercise for NJ Transit, the agency is proposing cuts in 11 bus lines, which NJT says are little-used compared to the majority of its bus services; Mike Frassinelli reported the proposed cuts in the Star-Ledger (May 15). NJT’s review of its bus operations involved an ”inward look” using metrics to find ways to better allocate its resources; the new initiative is said to stem from NJT’s “Scorecard” user-input survey program. The 11 bus routes targeted average 14 customers per hour, compared to the systemwide average of 24. Also, the average subsidy per passenger on these routes is a whopping $4.87, compared to a systemwide average of $1.29. Five bus lines would be eliminated completely: routes 42, 43, 75, 78, and 93; six others would have services “adjusted”: for example, the lightly-used University Heights branch of route 258 would be eliminated, but the rest of the 258 service would be unaffected. Savings of $3.1 million are forecast from the changes; but $1 million would be reinvested in new projects, including 24-hour bus service between Newark Penn Station, Newark Airport, and Elizabeth. Public hearings are scheduled for the cuts on June 12 at One Penn Plaza, Newark (11 a.m. – 2 p.m.) and at the Wayne Municipal Complex on June 13 (5-8 p.m.)
The Lackawanna Coalition believes that coordinated bus and rail service is essential to an effective transportatioin network. All too often, NJT bus and rail services are not coordinated as far as schedules and fare schemes; attention to this could improve ridership on both rail and bus lines.
More than two years ago, NJ Transit changed its policy on the use of trains by bicyclists, publishing (in timetables) rules that restricted boarding or leaving trains with bicycles to stations with high-level platforms: it’s more difficult and perhaps less safe to do this at stations with low-level platforms, which requires the cyclist to carry the bicycle up or down the train-door steps. Within the last year, NJT has begun enforcing the new rules. Unfortunately, many NJT stations do not have high-level platforms, which severely restricts the use of the rail system by cyclists. (NJT’s three light-rail lines, in contrast, are bicycle-accessible; and many NJT buses also are bicycle-capable.) Bicycle advocates, including the New York Cycle Club, protested the changes and began working with NJT’s advisory committee on the issue. Now, change may be in the offing, according to reporting by Larry Higgs in the Daily Record. The advisory committee has recommended that cyclists be allowed to board and get off at all stations, although rush-hour trains would continue to prohibit bicycles. Transportation Commissioner James Simpson noted that New Jersey is “one of the most bike-friendly states”, and said “we’ll try to put the issue to bed at the next (NJT) board meeting”. Meanwhile, NJT staff will do some trials, loading and unloading bikes at low-level platforms. The advisory committee also proposed increased signage showing where bikes could be stowed on various rail-car types, and increasing the number of bikes allowed to be carried on each car. Segway motorized devices also fall under the bicycle policy.
New Jersey Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson suggested on May 9 that some NJT buses might pick up passengers on the streets of Manhattan, rather than just at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Simpson broached the idea at NJT’s monthly board meeting; the idea was reported by Karen Rouse in The Record (May 10). Although any such street pickups would fall under the jurisdiction of New York City’s Department of Transportation, Simpson noted that New York Waterway ferry shuttle buses already pick up passengers on city streets. NJT spokeswoman Nancy Snyder noted that NJT pays the Port Authority $1.78 million a year for the use of its bus terminals (the midtown Port Authority and the uptown George Washington Bridge terminals).