Their bus was apparently re-routed to Central Avenue instead in order to serve Central Avenue's businesses, which are boasting of the new bus service in upcoming TV commercials.
Last week, residents came to a community meeting in the Heights to complain about the fact that the 99S bus' run along Palisade Avenue in Jersey City was changed. The bus terminates at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York.
The Red and Tan subsidiary of the Coach USA Bus Company officially discontinued the bus's run down Palisade Avenue on Aug. 27, citing low ridership. They rerouted the bus to run down Central Avenue.
E-mails and letters from angry residents started pouring in to Coach USA as well as to city, county, and state officials.
Many residents came to the monthly meeting of the Riverview Neighborhood Association on Tuesday, where they directed their concerns and complaints to their special guest, Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy.
At the meeting, Healy offended some attendees by encouraging them to walk from Palisade Avenue to Central Avenue if they needed to catch the 99S bus.
But Healy also said he will request that NJ Transit reroute the No. 123 bus, which currently travels along Palisade Avenue in Union City, to continue south onto Palisade Avenue in Jersey City, travel to Christ Hospital, loop around, and return north on Palisade Avenue toward Paterson Plank Road, then onward to the Lincoln Tunnel.Why was the route changed?
As of Aug. 27, the 99S and the 10 buses both began traveling down Central Avenue on the way to the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
Both buses have always left from Bayonne and traveled down Kennedy Boulevard, but No. 10 ended at the Journal Square Bus Terminal in Jersey City, while the 99S continued on its way to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York via Palisade Avenue in Jersey City.
It was the Central Avenue Special Improvement District Management Corporation (CASID) that helped bring the buses to Central Avenue, they said. This group of Central Avenue business owners worked with Jersey City officials and Coach USA Red & Tan representatives to have the buses head down Central Avenue.
The asked for this to happen because Coach USA had announced that the No. 231 bus that once traveled down Central Avenue would end its operation on Aug. 27.
Jim Rutherford, general manager of Coach USA Red & Tan, claimed in an interview last week that the company did a survey that found that only 40 to 50 people a day took the 99S bus in total, which he blamed on jitney (small passenger) buses operating on Palisade Avenue and taking away many customers with their cheaper fares.
"There was not a sufficient amount of passengers, and our operational costs were too much to sustain a small ridership," Rutherford said.
Rutherford added, "The Central Avenue Special Improvement District requested we change the route and go down Central Avenue. We looked at the route itself and timed it to see if it was shorter, and we found there is not much of a gamble going down a different street." Doing anything to make it work
Michael Yun, president of the CASID board, said last week that the CASID did not "pursue" Coach USA, but rather Coach USA came to them to reestablish bus service on Central Avenue after the 231 bus was discontinued and asked if they wanted other bus service.
Yun said while he welcomes both the 99S and the 10 buses running down Central Avenue, he knows this situation could be short-lived if there aren't enough passengers to satisfy Coach USA.
"This is strictly a business decision on their part, and if they don't see enough ridership on Central Avenue, they could close these lines again," Yun said.
During the interview, Yun walked outside his store, where a 99S bus was stopped a few feet away. The bus was going nowhere. Instead, it was being utilized for a commercial for the CASID to air on cable in upcoming weeks.
Yun said the commercial will not only showcase Central Avenue as a shopping district, but will also highlight the fact that shoppers will be able to take the 10 and 99S buses to travel here from other parts of the city.
The CASID has also put a banner over Central Avenue advertising the buses traveling on the thoroughfare.
"We know that to prevent any future stopping of the buses, one way is to promote and let the neighbors know - nothing more than that," he said. They want their bus back
The members of the Riverview Neighborhood Association (RNA) and other Heights residents who are 99S bus customers aired their concerns to Mayor Healy, and then after Healy left, to City Councilmen Steve Lipski and Steven Fulop.
Many who came to the meeting said they were daily passengers who still could not understand how Coach USA could find declining passenger numbers in their survey. When they board the buses, they said, they are packed in the morning and crowded in the evening.
After the meeting, Joe Sadowski, who owns two houses on Ogden Avenue, said without the bus service, several of his tenants who take the bus to jobs in New York will have a more difficult time.
"Two of my tenants said they will seriously consider moving if they won't be able to catch the bus on Palisade Avenue," Sadowski said.
Nicole Durbin, who lives with her husband also on Ogden Avenue, commutes on the 99S at night from her job as an educator in New York. She said she would rather see a bus back running on Palisade Avenue since she does not feel safe walking at night several blocks west from Central Avenue.
"Before, the 99S usually stopped a block away from my home," Durbin said. "While the Heights are a lovely place to live in, the reality is we live in an urban area, and I'm thinking about safety."
Becky Hoffman, president of the RNA, said she is hopeful that bus service will be restored - and should be restored - as the RNA and other Heights residents were given short notice of the change. For comments on this story, contact Ricardo Kaulessar at email@example.com.