We need a plan to restore more bus service to downtown Montclair (Letter to the editor)

DeCamp bus lot on May 24, 2021 (KATE ALBRIGHT / FOR LOCAL MONTCLAIR)

Montclair is well-known as a transit-connected gem, with its seven stations that can get you to downtown New York City in under an hour. But for much of our community, the greatest asset of public transit is actually our proximity to Route 3 and the express bus service it can facilitate.

For residents of northern Montclair, a downtown express bus trip can take 25 to 30 minutes, half as much as a train, without even considering how close to stations is. Two years ago, a flood of buses traveled Valley Road, Grove Street and Broad Street before heading straight for the Lincoln Tunnel. It was a pillar of our community’s public transportation that many people have become dependent on.

Decades-old political agreements have given a private company the exclusive right to serve our community with a downtown bus service, and sadly, the pandemic has sidelined that company’s service. During this time. our federal and state taxes have worked hard to ensure other communities stay connected with NJ Transit buses, which operate continuously and with the government-backed certainty that they will continue to operate. There is a real cost to losing our bus connectivity and it comes in the form of hours wasted with family, more cars on the road, overreliance on train service and lower property values.

Love them or hate them, NJ Transit exists to support the economic benefits of a more connected region and, with government backing, they are able to provide continuous and affordable commuting options. Yet they are prohibited from serving our community with a downtown bus service due to an opaque “no-stop zone” agreement with Decamp, a for-profit bus service. Decamp is a good bus service, but the pandemic has exposed the downside of outsourcing public transport to a private company: it can just stop the service when it doesn’t see any money to be made. That’s what he has to do.

It has broken commuting habits for much of our community looking to get back to work as well as for those like my wife who have never stopped commuting downtown. Many of us moved into a home that featured “Steps from Downtown Bus Service” as a flagship title. I have no illusions that our commuting needs will be the same as in 2019, anytime soon, but a large part of our community will be moving back to downtown in 2022 and we should be using all public transit resources in our disposition.

It’s time we asked our community leaders to work with Decamp, NJ Transit and the state government to develop a plan to restore downtown bus service to Montclair to reasonable levels of service and prices. . Convenient public transit is essential to connect people to their work in an efficient, fair and environmentally responsible way.

Bob manix cramer
Montclair


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