Gov. Phil Murphy and officials from NJ Transit say they are looking at ways to help commuters who will have to find new ways to get to work after April 7, when the state’s oldest bus company will stop running commuter routes.
Murphy said after an event in Harrison on Wednesday, “I want all commuters to know that we are looking at all of our options, including NJ Transit.” “I’m not sure about a bailout from the state.”
Jonathan DeCamp, vice president and chief operating officer of DeCamp Bus Lines, said on Monday that the company would stop running its seven commuter routes because ridership has never returned to what it was before the COVID-19 pandemic. The company will still offer charter and casino service.
DeCamp had seven routes for commuters, and three of them came back to service on shorter schedules. DeCamp said that the average number of passengers dropped from 6,800 before COVID to 1,250 after it.
It’s still not clear if the state can help keep DeCamp’s commuter buses running by giving them money.
Phil Murphy said, “It’s up in the air.” “We are very aware of how hard this will be for the commuters. We don’t want commuters to get stuck with the bill.”
Jim Smith, a spokesman for the agency, said in 2020 that the through route revenue miles of private commuter bus companies earn about $21 million in Federal Transit Administration funds for NJ Transit every year. These funds are given to the state agency. In exchange, the private carriers will be able to use NJ Transit buses for their commuter services.
Anthony Grieco, vice president of communications for NJ Transit, said that if DeCamp stopped running its commuter services, the company would return 50 cruiser buses that NJ Transit had given it as part of a programme for private carriers.
It is unlikely that federal COVID-19 relief funds given to public transit agencies to make up for lost revenue will be shared, NJ Transit and a former official from the Federal Transit Administration said. Private bus companies that provided commuter service were not eligible for CARES Act funding, and they could only apply for CRRSSA and ARPA funding under certain conditions.
In the fall of 2020, private bus companies asked NJ Transit’s COVID relief funds for $197 million. These carriers said they should get some of the grant money because their mileage is used to figure out how much federal aid NJ Transit gets each year that doesn’t come from COVID-19.
Former FTA Director for Region 2 New York Office of Operations and Program Management Larry Penner said, “The only way they could get FTA money is through a designated recipient like NJ Transit or NJ DOT. All three rounds of COVID money are probably already taken.” “The state gives NJ Transit money to help them run, so they might be the easiest way to get help.”