New Jersey Transit does a great job of running express buses. From any direction, you can find a bus to the Port Authority. But express buses within New Jersey are another matter.
Aside from a small operation in Newark an a few rush-hour only routes from Central New Jersey to Jersey City, NJ Transit doesn’t really operate express buses.
As a result, it can take a long time to get between major cities in New Jersey. Take for example, Newark and Passaic. They both major transit hubs about ten miles apart, but there is no direct connection between them whatsoever. No bus, no train.
Currently, one of the options is to take the train from Passaic to Secaucus and transfer to a train going to Newark. This costs $7.25 and takes between 50 minutes to an hour. Passaic’s train station is located in a residential neighborhood about a mile from downtown Passaic.
The other option is to take the local 74 bus from Passaic Bus Terminal, and transfer to the Newark Light Rail. This is cheaper, but also takes 50 minutes.
Newark and Passaic are connected by Route 21, and are about 20 minutes apart by car. Hypothetically, an express bus between the two cities would take a similar amount of time. Assuming a few minutes to make stops in Downtown Newark and Downtown Passaic, a Newark-Passaic express bus would take 25 minutes end to end. With a 5-minute layover, this bus could run every 30 minutes with only two buses.
Route 21 is mostly free from traffic congestion, but sometimes it gets a little backed up in Newark in the mornings. During rush hour periods, an express bus route would probably require 3 or 4 buses.
A Route 21 express bus could be implemented with modest resources, and would improve many people’s commutes immensely. It could easily take half an hour off the trip for many people.
Sadly, when NJ Transit starts a new bus route, more often than not they are congestion mitigations for highway projects or welfare buses deep into no-sidewalks suburbia. These routes are funded from outside sources, and NJT barely has the resources to accommodate ridership on its existing routes.
New Jersey’s urban highways are something of an underutilized transit resource. We have the infrastructure in place to run express buses from Newark to Passaic, or Paterson to Jersey City, or New Brunswick to Perth Amboy, but we don’t.
NJ Transit is an incredibly conservative organization. Many of its bus routes haven’t changed in 100 years, especially in Essex, Hudson, and Passaic Counties- They still run on the same streets where the trolley tracks were laid in 1910. There was no express route between Newark and Passaic back then, so there isn’t one now, despite all the changes in demographics and travel demand that have occured since then.
This isn’t a $500 million light rail project, or a bus rapid transit plan that takes years of study. In a perfect world, this could be put into place in 3 months.
Maybe in another ten years, with a new governor, increased gas taxes to fund transit, and a complete change of attitudes at NJ Transit, this could become a reality.
Or, the jitneys will get there first.