Illustration by team illustrator Sakura Siegel.
Walking through the west side of Jersey City, you’ve probably seen it pass right by you – A 30 bus. A 31 bus. A 32 bus. And, a 33 bus.
If you’re not from the Journal Square, West Side or Greenville sections, you probably aren’t familiar with these buses, but for about 200,000 people per month, it’s more than a number. Bus 32 is a trip to Hudson Mall, Marshall’s and the Asian Food Market on Route 440. Bus 33 takes you all along Bergen Square, taking you past coffee shops, mini markets and even schools like P.S. No. 11 Martin Luther King Jr School, Hudson Catholic High School and Hudson County Community College.
Earlier this month, A&C Bus company announced that their services could be discontinued on Oct. 31 because of a downfall of revenue ever since the 2020 pandemic. The company has ran these four routes for nearly a century. Of the hundreds who have been shocked by the news is 26-year-old Xavier Boone, a native to the Greenville section of Jersey City, who knows all four routes too well.
“I took all of these buses growing up,” Boone told Slice of Culture.
“[I took] the 440 Shopper to commute to my first job at Footaction [in Hudson Mall]. The Montgomery & West Side [Bus 31] route to get to school – commuting from Greenville to James J. Ferris wasn’t always the easiest – and the Bergen Avenue [Bus 33] to get anywhere in between… These buses are a lot more important than people think.”
Boone said he learned about the news on Instagram and was, at first, outraged. He thought that the NJ Transit operated all local transportation, but later learned that it has been a family company who runs these specific lines.
The A&C Bus company started in 1927 by Mary Beth Callahan’s grandfather, who moved from Italy to the U.S. She told NBC New York about her dilemma.
“I’ve been losing money since COVID and I can’t hold on. This wasn’t an easy decision and it breaks my heart,” Callahan said.
“We have not recovered from COVID, the only thing that sustained us were the two grants we got of federal money.”
According to the article, NJ Transit will offer jobs to all A&C employees, but it may not have the resources to replace the four bus routes.
But from the looks of petitions and social media comments, residents want more than that.
Ward B resident Amy Wilson started an Action Network petition, which generates a letter to “save our buses” to state Gov. Phil Murphy, state Senate President Nick Scutari, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and New Jersey Transit President/CEO Kevin Corbett. It’s more than halfway to its goal of 3,200 letters.
Lycel P. Villanueva, a mother of three “school-aged bus-riding children,” started a Change.org petition, which emphasizes that “losing the few critical and basic mass transit options we have is utterly not acceptable. Our elected bodies of government have the responsibility to ensure that we are not marginalized just because of geography, demographics, & lifestyle.”
This is a point that Greenville native Kat Robinson echoed.
“I have not taken the bus in many years. However, I have a lot of loved ones and know others who rely on these buses heavily for work, leisure [and etc],” Robinson said.
“We live in an urban community [where] public transportation is needed. I can’t imagine residents only using Ubers, and light rails. It doesn’t work for everyone. Buses are more convenient as there are stops available on almost every street and corner. Buses also have more frequent schedules than any other transportation option. This will also impact development patterns and the generation of jobs.”
Robinson works as an HR manager in Jersey City and said that she even promotes the easy commute of getting to the office. But she added that if these routes dissolve, it won’t just affect the workforce, but the elders and students too.
Margarita De Los Santos has lived in the Journal Square section for 17 years. She is now a 36-year-old mother to a 12-year-old daughter who takes the No. 33 bus to get to and from school.
For her daughter – and her own peace of mind – the service is “extremely convenient” because it leaves the girl outside of the school’s doors. She doesn’t even have to walk after getting off the bus.
“I think the service A&C offers the residents of Jersey City is extremely important. Especially to students and senior citizens who ride this bus to doctors appointments and to just do everyday errands. It will be detrimental to these groups if they don’t have a plan in place to replace service,” De Los Santos added.
In #JerseyCity right now, the situation truly is: "poor bus service is better than no bus service" so send a letter for NJT to take over A&C lines!
— Megan Carolan (@MeganCarolan) August 17, 2023
“It will have a negative impact on quality of life. I know a lot of people who ride this bus to get to 440 to grocery shop and do other things. That area already isn’t really walkable.”
Since the news broke, Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey – who represents the West Side of the city – said she has been speaking with NJ Transit and has been “working closely” with Assemblywoman Angela McKnight. She stressed how “imperative” it is that NJ Transit takes over the routes.
“We don’t have the same transit options on the west side that are available in other parts of the city,” she told Hudson County View.
Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’Dea sponsored a resolution last week that urges Gov. Murphy to “ensure” that A&C’s bus routes will be picked up by NJ Transit. The resolution was approved unanimously (9-0). Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop also wrote a letter asking for NJ Transit to do just the same. He is still reportedly awaiting proposals from the state transportation service.
Boone, Robinson and De Los Santos all want to see this happen. Robinson also suggested that there should be an assessment on the significance of buses in the city; not only for the residents, but businesses as well because of their employees.
“These buses are essential to the abuela living alone, to the 8th graders choosing their high schools, to the young adult striving for an opportunity for a position anywhere in NJ and to the folks in the Greenville/West Side areas with the necessity to go anywhere to do anything,” Boone said.
The Jersey City Council is set to vote on how to take action on the west side’s bus routes.