Murphy plan focuses on improving NJ Transit bus service

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

Gov. Phil Murphy’s visit to NJ Transit’s bus maintenance facility in Newark sent a signal that bus riders are not being forgotten.

“When people think about NJ Transit, they think more often of the trains, but that’s not even half the story. The fact is, more New Jerseyans rely on NJ Transit’s bus operations as part of their daily lives than ride the rails,” Murphy said.

More than half a million ride New Jersey Transit buses every weekday. In downtown Newark, the service gets mixed reviews.

“I think it needs work. It needs work because every time you try to get the bus, you don’t even know what bus you’re taking because the driver doesn’t want to take the time to explain to the people where they’re going,” said Christian Georges, who lives in Phillipsburg.

“It’s pretty much pretty accurate. They’re always on time,” said Newark resident Yarel Acevedo.

“It sucks. It absolutely sucks,” said Karim Sharif, who is also from Newark.

“The majority of our residents in Newark take public transportation, and the primary form of public transportation that they take is the bus,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.

Common complaints around the state are that buses are late or overcrowded. Murphy’s plan is to:

  • Hire 40 more bus drivers;
  • Relieve over-crowing on specific lines in Bergen, Hudson and Union Counties;
  • Renew a focus on on-time performance;
  • Allow flexibility to mitigate slowdowns caused by road construction

“As I’ve said many times before, we know we cannot get everything fixed at once. It’s going to take time and it’s going to take additional years of committed investments in NJ Transit to reverse the damage of years of neglect and mismanagement,” Murphy said.

NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett says there is a bus driver shortage right now and the agency is recruiting.

“For many in the rank and file here, get the word out that, consider a new career in NJ Transit. You can embark on a new career, or even a second rewarding career in public service, with the good benefit programs that we have, that you all know about,” Corbett said.

Complaints are heard not just in the cities. Someone tweeted from Clifton this morning along with an image of dozens of commuters lined up waiting for a bus, “What the hell is going on NJ Transit? This is a daily situation.”

Sen. Patrick Diegnan highlighted another problem area: “East Brunswick. I don’t know if anybody has been at the bus depot on Route 18 in East Brunswick in the mornings where literally thousands of residents are taking that bus into the city to be able to pay their bills. This is not an amenity. This is a necessity,” he said.

Murphy wants to up New Jersey Transit’s budget by $242 million. He is promising no fare hike for at least the next 15 months.

“You are the transportation governor. You campaigned on fixing mass transit. Today, you are in the facility that not only maintains but we rebuild buses and transit every day here in this shop. And how good it is to have the governor, who is going to rebuild NJ Transit, be in Newark shops today talking about fixing NJ Transit,” said Ray Greaves, chairman of the New Jersey Amalgamated Transit Union.

Corbett told reporters that NJ Transit bus riders should expect to see improved service by this summer. Planned roadwork on the approach to the Lincoln Tunnel, however, could complicate that.