Trenton – In response to recent cancelations cancellations of routes and services by private bus carriers that left some New Jerseyans who rely on this form of public transit stranded with few alternatives, the Senate Transportation Committee advanced legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz that would require operators who receive state funds to participate in New Jersey Transit Corporation’s bus lease program, and give ample public notice of any service changes or discontinuation of routes. The bill, S4085, would allow the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) to fine companies for violations.
“For many people, public transportation is their lifeline to work, medical care, and taking care of their families. Any disruption to these services means upending someone’s livelihood. Entire communities depend on these services, are loyal customers, and deserve respect from the companies they rely on,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex).
The bill would require each private bus operator who is a recipient of state funds to provide at least three months written notice to customers prior to any major changes. Additionally, one public meeting in the affected area must be held, as close as possible to the highest trafficked stop on the route, within fifteen days of providing notice to the service’s customers. Any company that fails to conduct this outreach could be fined $10,000 for each violation, as well as face additional penalties under current law.
Throughout the last year, various private carrier companies abruptly terminated services and routes throughout the state. For instance in September, one provider abruptly discontinued bus service in Orange, Newark and East Orange. This caused distress among riders and left NJ Transit to establish short-term emergency alternatives and lean on employers to fill gaps. This bill would provide MVC and NJ Transit much needed warning to arrange alternative transportation for affected areas.
The bill was released from the Senate Transportation Committee by a vote of 4-0.