September NJT Bus Changes

Seasonal summer trips are dropping from the schedules, and school year service is starting up again.  Read the details yourself. Here are the other changes:

Service increase:

10 Bayonne – Jersey City (service span extended from 11:45pm to 1:00am)

80 Greenville – Exchange Place (11 trips  in peak hours)

81 Bayonne – Jersey City (5 trips, mainly in early pm peak)

111 Jersey Gardens – New York (2 trips on Sundays)

128 North Bergen – New York (1 trip)

119 Bayonne – New York (1 trip)

137 Toms River – New York (1 trip on Saturdays)

160 Elmwood Park – New York (1 trip)

166 Cresskill – New York (multiple pm trips to replace local 165)

192 Clifton – New York (3 trips on Sundays)

321 Vince Lombardi Park and Ride – New York (8 extra trips bring headway from 1 hour to 30 minutes)

 

Service decrease:

10 Bayonne – Jersey City (4 trips, mainly at night)

197 Wayne – New York (1 trip)

418 Trenton – Camden (1 trip)

704 Paterson- Wayne (4 trips, midday headway widens from 25 minutes to 30 minutes)

 

Service change or reroute:

165 Westwood- New York :  2 Evening local trips start in Weehawken instead of New York.

166 Cresskill – New York : 5 evening local trips start in Weehawken instead of New York.

414 and 417 : Major extension to 30th Street, Philadelphia to serve University City

417 Mount Holly – Philadelphia: Rerouted to serve Pennsauken Station

418 Trenton – Camden: Local stops added and branch route discontinued

551 Atlantic City – Philadelphia:  Midday trips add a stop at Gloucester Outlets

832 Red Bank – Asbury Park:  Extended to Brookdale College, frequency reduced from 45 minutes to 1 hour.

833 and 835: combined into new 838 Freehold – Sea Bright route. Current frequency maintained, Saturday frequency declines from hourly to every 85 minutes.

Competition Sprouts up in Kendall Park!

It’s a rare moment when there is a new entrant into the commuter bus industry. In fact, there is probably a once-in-a-decade moment or less.

A new company, OurBus, is running a low-cost, express commuter bus from the Kendall Park Park and Ride, putting it in direct competition with incumbent carrier Suburban Transit on Route 27.

Planet Princeton has the scoop:

OurBus offers a one-seat ride from the Kendall Park Roller Skating Rink lot on Route 27 to New York, making one other stop in Franklin Township along the way. The bus makes four stops in the city, arriving at Times Square at 8:15 a.m. and then stopping at Bryant Park, Grand Central and Madison Park.

The one-way fare is $8. A round-trip ticket is $14. A monthly pass is $220.

For those who are keeping track, a one-way between the same point via Suburban Transit costs $13 and a monthly is a steep $410.  That means OurBus is charging almost half what Suburban is asking.  Yikes.

Let’s also look at the running time.  A standard run on the Suburban Transit 100 (their main line) takes a painful 1 hour 35 minutes.  This is mostly because the route tuns local from Route 1, through the Tower Center/Nielson Plaza Park and Ride, Downtown New Brunswick, and Route 27 all the way to Princeton.

OurBus accomplishes the same run in 1 hour 20 minutes.  Remember, that’s to Times Square.  Suburban goes to the Port Authority.  That incremental avenue block from 8th to 7th probably takes 5 minutes in its own right, so OurBus is probably getting to the Port Authority area in around 1 hour 15.  After that, OurBus heads to Grand Central and Madison Square Park, according to the article.

Perhaps not coincidentally, it seem that Suburban has implemented a new express trip that skips the Tower Center stop, leaving at 6:40am, a mere 15 minutes before the OurBus departs.  Is Suburban trying to keep OurBus from expanding its market share?  It looks like it.  Unfortunately neither publishes ridership statistics so only time will tell.

This brings us to a question:  What is OurBus? Let’s take a look at their website.

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Planet Princeton says they are a “technology platform that allows commuters to create their own demand-based bus routes that pick up near their homes and drop off close to their workplaces. A proprietary algorithm creates routes that stop near commuters’ homes and places of work. The platform then works with charter coach companies to serve their needs.”

Working with charter coach companies may explain how they can keep the ticket price so low.  And the demand-based approach is probably why they launches with so little media coverage.  This is the first I’m hearing about it.

It looks like a smarter way of creating commuter bus routes.  Crowdsourcing for transit, if you will. This is smart.  Transit demand is so scattered in most markets that it’s hard to do this, but for CBD-bound daily commuters, departure times and locations are highly static.  Some people have been making the same commute for 40 years. It would be harder to crowdsource a local transit route with 10-minute service.  That has a lot of walk up customers and that kind of demand is hard to crowdsource.

They may be on to something.

 

Summer bus changes go into effect today

Summer bus schedule changes are fairly predictable.  Extra service to and from beach towns.  Supplementary service to various high schools is discontinued until fall.

Only a few major developments here.  The biggest is a restructuring of the 119 bus schedule, which goes through Bayonne, Journal Square, and Jersey City Heights to the Port Authority.

Formerly ending service around 10pm, this bus will now run overnight, providing a good way home to Jersey City and Bayonne late-shift workers, partygoers, etc.  There seems to have been some lobbying on the part of the Jersey City Mayor’s office for the reschedule.

The change also seems to be cost-neutral. Savings were achieved by tweaks to the parallel #10 schedule on Kennedy Boulevard, and by making midday service run less often.  Also, more running time has been added to the schedule so buses will be more reliable.

How else is the NJ bus network changing?  A few minor branches and route deviations are being removed, like an off-hours deviation of the 88 via Central Avenue in Jersey City, that only ran during midday hours, and very occasionally at best.

Also being eliminated are branch lines to industrial areas of Paterson and Totowa.  These areas will still be a few blocks from regular bus service and the routes will see no change in frequency.  Ridership on these segments was probably low (or nonexistent).

There are also minor boosts in frequency on the 166 and 197.

But who is to say that we won’t see major service cuts down the road?  NJ Transit is currently facing a $46 million budget gap for next year.  And add to that the fact (which recently came to light thanks to the Tri State Transportation Campaign) that over the past few years, NJ Transit has kept itself afloat by transferring $5 billion from its capital budget to pay for operating expenses.

Read the details of the new schedules, straight from the horse’s mouth:

No. 10 Daily: Select late night/overnight trips have been replaced with the No. 119 line and schedule adjustments to improve on-time performance.

No.  67 Daily:  Service will be operated to and from Seaside Park.  67X trip times will be adjusted in coordination with the added No. 319 service to and from Newark and Jersey City.

No. 79 Sundays:  At the request of our customers, service to Parsippany will now depart Penn Station at 8:34 AM and at 9:34 AM.

No. 83 Daily: Minor schedule adjustments in coordination with completion of construction of Little Ferry Circle.

No. 88 Weekdays & Saturdays:
  Central Avenue “C” service in both directions will no longer operate via Central Avenue. Use the No. 119 for alternate service.

No. 111 Weekdays:  An additional trip departing Jersey Gardens at 9:16 PM has been added to the schedule.

Attention No. 115 Customers:  Service to and from Union City has been discontinued. Customers traveling between Union City and Jersey Gardens should use the No. 111 line.  Please pick up a new schedule, or visit the website online for details, as trip times may have changed by a few minutes.

No. 119 Weekdays & Saturdays: New schedule including late night/overnight service and schedule adjustments to improve on-time performance.

No. 122 Weekdays: Adjusted schedule in the TO Secaucus direction.

No. 126 Weekdays:  Beginning May 22nd, select ‘Friday Only’ early getaway service will operate from the Port Authority Bus Terminal through the summer.

No. 127 Weekdays:
Adjusted first three “X” express trips in the AM to depart 5 minutes earlier.

No. 130 Friday:  Trip leaving New York at 2:15 PM to Lakewood will continue to operate through the summer to improve travel options.

No. 133 Weekdays:  Trip leaving the Rotary Senior Center at 7:05 AM will leave 5 minutes LATER at 7:10 AM.  Times between Rt. 516 at Morganville Road and New York will remain the same. No new timetable will be issued for this change.

No. 137 Daily:  Service will be added to and from Seaside Park. Weekend service will be extended to Island Beach State Park.

  • Saturday and Sunday:  Shuttle service to and from Seaside Park will be discontinued.
  • Weekdays:  AM parkway express trips from Toms River will be adjusted to serve passenger needs, please check timetable carefully as all trips may not operate Monday thru Friday.

No. 139 Friday:  Trip leaving New York at 3:00 PM to Union Hill Park&Ride Lot will continue to operate through the Summer to improve travel options.

No. 156 Weekdays: Adjustments made in the TO Englewood Cliffs direction during the PM rush hours.

Nos. 158, 163T, 164B&E, 165P, 166T&X, 177, 192 Local & Express,
193, 324 Fridays:
Extra summer-season Friday getaway service has been added.

No. 159 Weekdays: Adjustments made in the TO Fort Lee direction to the PM local and (X) express trips.

No. 163 Weekdays: Adjustments made to the Union City service in both directions.

No. 165 Weekdays: Minor schedule adjustments to reflect the completion of the Little Ferry Circle construction.

No. 166 Daily: Minor schedule adjustments, including one new midday weekday trip to New York. Saturday “T” Turnpike Express service has been increased to operate every 30 minutes.

No. 168 Weekdays: Minor schedule adjustments to reflect the completion of the Little Ferry Circle construction.

No. 167 & 177 Daily: Minor schedule adjustments and the No. 321 has replaced No. 167 midday service to Vince Lombardi Park & Ride.

No. 190 Weekdays: Adjustments made to the Union City service in both directions. The 4:35 PM “P” trip departing New York will now operate as an “E” trip.

No. 197 Daily: The 12:30 AM trip departing New York will now serve the Willowbrook Shoppers’ Stop and a 10:51 AM weekday trip departing Pompton Lakes has been added for the summer season.

No. 308 will operate daily service.  Please consult njtransit.com for times and days of operation.

No. 316: New service from University City in Philadelphia to Wildwood/Cape May plus the 316 will also stop at the Walter Rand Transportation Center in Camden and the Gloucester Premium Outlets in Gloucester Township.  Service via Broad Street at Snyder Street in Philadelphia will be discontinued due to low ridership.  Special excursion round trip fares from Philadelphia to Wildwood/Cape May will be available again this summer.

No. 319: Service between New York, Toms River, and Atlantic City will be increased for the summerwith four trips operating daily south of Atlantic City via Ocean City, Ocean View, Sea Isle, Avalon, Stone Harbor, North Wildwood, Wildwood, Rio Grande, and Cape May.

No. 320 Weekdays: New early trip and schedule adjustments to New York between 5 AM and 6:30 AM. New trip and schedule adjustments between 2:15 PM and 3:10 PM in the TO Harmon Meadow direction.

No. 321 Weekdays: The 4 midday No. 167 trips in both directions will now operate as No. 321 trips. All trips departing New York to Vince Lombardi Park & Ride will now leave from Gate 318.

No. 400: Select trips will be adjusted to provide daily serve via the new bus stop on Premium Outlet Drive in front of the Gloucester Premium Outlets in Gloucester Township.

Nos. 403, 452: Direct service to Ferry Avenue PATCO will be discontinued due to changes to the road serving the station.   Customers will still be able to access the station via the bus stops on Haddon Avenue at Copewood Street.

No. 510: the service will be adjusted to operate via Route 9 to provide faster service between Wildwood and Cape May.

No. 601: Running time will be adjusted daily to improve on time performance.

No. 704 Weekdays: Service has been eliminated in the Bunker Hill section of Paterson (East 6th St. at 5th Avenue timepoint). See No. 722 line for alternative service.

No. 712 Weekdays: Service has been eliminated in the Totowa Industrial Area (at the Gordon Dr. at King Road timepoint) at 4:48 PM in the TO Hackensack direction and the 7:38 AM and 7:55 AM in the TO Willowbrook Mall direction.

No. 872 Weekdays: New timepoint has been added to the schedule for Wyndham Worldwide in the Mack Cali Business Campus.

Nos. 801, 802, and 805: Selected trips will be adjusted to improve connections with the Northeast Corridor.

Nos. 811, 818: The timepoint for the Brunswick Square Mall will be change to the new location at the Mall Entrance next to Starplex Cinema.

Uptown PATH to close on weekends

The Port Authority is closing the Uptown PATH line  starting in August between Hoboken and 33rd Street in order to install Positive Train Control, a more advanced signalling and communications system that will let trains run more frequently in the future. As part of this closure, service patterns are changing:

Service on the 33rd Street line will be suspended from approximately 12:01 a.m. on Saturdays until 5 a.m. on Mondays. The suspension will continue most weekends into December, with the exception of major holidays, the Port Authority announced.

Regular weekend service will continue on the Newark-World Trade Center (WTC) line and between Journal Square and Hoboken. However, PATH can take some solace in the introduction of service between Hoboken and WTC on the weekend — which is not normally available.

Full NJ.com article here.

The Port Authority will also run shuttle buses between World Trade Center and Midtown, stopping at Christopher, 9th, 14th, 23rd, and 33rd Streets, though this will be a relatively roundabout route for anyone heading to Midtown from Hoboken or Newport.

Of course, people in Hoboken, or even Journal Square will probably not take this route, and will be diverted to the jitney buses, the NJ Transit 126, and the ferries.  The ferries could totally replace the Uptown PATH on the weekends, if not for the high fares.

In 2014 when the Downtown PATH tubes were closed, the Port Authority subsidized rides on the Paulus Hook ferry, bringing fares in line with PATH fares at the time. No ferries are being subsidized or discounted this time.

 

 

 

May rail changes bring better weekend service at North Elizabeth

This May, timetable changes on the NJ Transit rail system bring a pleasant surprise.  The big story, other than the opening of Wesmont Station, is the expansion of weekend train service at North Elizabeth on the Northeast Corridor Line.

North Elizabeth is one of the least-used stops on the NEC Line, with an average of 553 weekday passengers boarding at the stop in FY 2014.  Ridership is up, year-over-year. FY 2015 saw an average of 599 boardings at North Elizabeth, a nearly 10% increase. For comparison, during the same period total rail ridership increased by 2%.

Until recently, North Elizabeth saw only sporadic service on the weekends.  Most trains would speed past the station without stopping, and riders would have to make the hike over to Downtown Elizabeth to catch the train.  North Elizabeth will now have train service every 1-2 hours throughout the day on weekends.

What’s to account for the sudden boost in service?  It might be a recent transit-oriented development project called Station Commons, a 100-unit apartment building that just opened immediately adjacent to the station.

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With a giant brownfield development site right across the street, development in the station area can only go up from here.

Hopefully, this is a microcosm of what is happening across New Jersey.  New developments are going in at formerly depressed neighborhoods near train stations: Harrison, Bloomfield, Orange, and the list goes on.

Other schedule changes are minor.  On the Main/Bergen Lines, some trains that terminated at Waldwick will now run only to Ridgewood, and other Ridgewood trains are being extended to Waldwick. Summer Coast Line expresses to the beach are back for the season, as well as more frequent Bay Head shuttles. And a few evening trains are adding new stops on the inner Morris and Essex Lines, offering more frequent service for local suburb-to-suburb riders on that line.

Coach USA/Suburban Transit raises local and commuter fares

Private transit operator Coach USA- a large holding company that owns properties like Suburban Transit in the Middlesex/Mercer County area, ONE Bus is Essex County, and Short Line in Bergen County – raised its fares effective May 2nd, 2016.

Recent NJ Transit hikes have captured public attention, and outrage, but in the mean time, Coach USA has been gradually increasing its fares as well,  slowly, but steadily.

Take a look at the 1-zone fares for ONE Bus (Orange-Newark-Elizabeth):

  • April 2015: $1.55
  • October 2015: $1.60
  • May 2016: $1.65

Before that, fares were $1.40, a rate that had not changed since 2008.  It seems like this is a programmed increase of five cents each month.  Are there further increases scheduled for Fall 2016?  Since they are a private company, we don’t know.

Down in Central NJ, Suburban Transit commuter fares are also rising by about 4%.

Here’s a rundown of Princeton-New York fares:

  • April 2011: $13.55
  • April 2012: $13.95
  • April 2013: $14.35
  • May 2015: $14.80
  • May 2016: $15.25

Monthly passes have also increased at a corresponding rate. Fares are still competitive with NJ Transit rail fares.

Fortunately, service levels are staying at about the level they were before.

 

 

 

Wesmont station opens, but what will happen to Garfield?

This May, train schedules on the NJ Transit rail system are changing on May 15th.  Service changes on all of the lines will be discussed in a later post, but this one will discuss the biggest piece of news, the opening of the new Wesmont station on the Bergen County Line (BCL). The new station is in Wood-Ridge, located between Garfield station and Rutherford station. It is being developed to serve an enormous infill development site on what used to be a large industrial complex.  This is a classic transit-oriented development project.

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njtransit.com

The opening of the new station has been a long time in the making, having been initially scheduled for completion in 2011.  The station itself was completed a few months ago, but the agency delayed opening the facility until the 215-space parking lot could be completed. For a station meant to serve residents of a local apartment complex, many of whom would probably walk, delaying train service on account of parking needs alone is a questionable decision.

Most, but not all BCL trains will stop at Wesmont.  There has been speculation that Wesmont would eventually come to serve as a replacement for Garfield station, which though located in a dense urban area, has short platforms and lacks parking.  Garfield station is not served by all trains on the BCL, and it is arguable that its low ridership is caused by low service levels, not the other way around. Garfield has the lowest ridership out of all stations on the Main and Bergen County Lines, with 169 boardings per day as of Q3 2014.

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Garfield Station, via Google Maps

When service at a low-ridership station is reduced, ridership begins to further decline in a vicious circle.  This is exactly what happened at Great Notch station on the Montclair-Boonton Line.  After the enormous Montclair State University station, and its parking garage, opened in 2004, NJT began cutting back service at Great Notch.  At the end, Great Notch was down to 2 trains and 9 passengers per day. The station permanently closed in 2010.

Personally, I do not foresee any substitution effects between Garfield and Wesmont.  No significant number of Garfield riders is likely to switch to Wesmont, as I see it.  Let me explain:

  • Garfield has no parking, so train riders who need a place to park are already going to other stations.  More of them might use Wesmont, but that doesn’t mean they will stop using Garfield.
  • Garfield and Wesmont stations are far apart enough that practically no one lives in walking distance of both of them. No one that walks to Garfield now will be enticed to walk to Wesmont.
  • Anyone using a bus to reach the train won’t go to Wesmont station, as there is no bus service that passes by there.

What may happen is that there will be a substitution effect between Wesmont and Wood-Ridge station on the Pascack Valley Line. Those two stations are just over a mile apart, and neighborhood residents have to cross Route 17 to reach Wood-Ridge station.

To close, here’s a picture of the TOD project, Avalon at Wesmont Station