Passengers who rely on the four intra-city routes operated by A&C Bus Corp. will be able to keep riding now that NJ Transit has pledged to take over those routes.

For Friends of Lincoln Park member Liz Guzman, many of whose colleagues patronize A&C’s Montgomery/West Side line, this development was welcome news. “I’m happy to see NJ Transit pick up the slack,” she said, particularly since its action appears to discount “the mistaken conception of big corporations” that bus ridership doesn’t pay.

“The other good side,” Guzman said, “is that passengers on the four routes can get transfers” onto other NJ Transit buses to reach other destinations.

Guzman’s optimism about bus commuter income notwithstanding, A&C’s Nos. 30 (Society Hill), 31 (Montgomery/West Side), 32 (Newport) and 33 (Bergen Avenue) will officially stop running October 28 because the owner says the nearly century-old operation has continued to lose money since COVID.

Decreased ridership, coupled with the skyrocketing cost of insurance, were blamed for derailing the carriers, as spelled out in a petition for discontinuance of service A&C attorney Blake Davis filed August 21 with the state Motor Vehicle Commission.

“The number of passengers on the routes, especially post pandemic, simply does not allow A&C with enough funds to afford to operate the service,” Davis said.

And, Davis added, “(T)he cost of insurance has risen dramatically so that in order to remain in business A&C has to make a $1 million payment to its insurance broker by October 29, 2023.

“This is not possible since not only is there not enough ridership and therefore income generated by the routes to support this payment, there are no subsidies available. Accordingly, A&C must and will cease all autobus operations on these routes on October 28, 2023.”

Davis said: “My client (Marybeth Callahan) is not happy about it but the ridership and fares don’t equalize the cost of insurance.”

Insurance premiums covering the fleet’s 27 vehicles (leased from NJ Transit) were projected to rise from $850,224 to $1,116,567, according to documentation A&C submitted to the MVC.

Having represented various bus companies for years, Davis said he’s concluded that “all public transportation is not profitable for independent carriers.”

Even before the petition was filed, A&C – together with city and county officials – had begun talks with NJ Transit on the possibility of the company taking over the service.

Ultimately, those negotiations led to an announcement September 29 by Gov. Phil Murphy that NJ Transit had agreed to an “emergency stabilization bus service plan” to ensure riders “uninterrupted access” to the A&C routes. NJ Transit also agreed to take over routes utilized by Coach USA O.N.E. riders traveling to and from Newark and environs.

A NJ Transit spokesperson said: “The initial estimate is that the A&C stabilization plan will cost $9.2 million, annually. This does not include the annual cost of the O.N.E. stabilization plan which will cost $17.7 million, annually.”

Asked how many, if any, A&C drivers would be absorbed by the mega carrier, the spokesperson said: “NJ Transit welcomes all CDL (commercial driver license) holders to join the professional ranks of NJ Transit bus operators.”

N.J. Department of Transportation Commissioner and NJ Transit Board Chairperson Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti said: “As New Jersey’s statewide public transportation provider, we recognize the critical importance of transportation to empower New Jerseyans to fulfill their professional, personal and recreational needs via affordable, accessible and reliable transportation. I am pleased that NJ Transit was able to use its resources to continue these critical bus routes.”

NJ Transit President/CEO Kevin S. Corbett added: “NJ Transit understands how important this bus service is to all those who depend on it, particularly for those who rely on it as their sole source of mobility. We are extremely pleased to be able to deliver a plan that maintains service for all the customers impacted by the disappointing decision made by A&C and Coach USA to discontinue operating these seven bus routes.”

Here’s how NJ Transit has strategized servicing the four new Jersey City-based routes which, the company says, “will maintain the same route patterns and spans,” all of which will charge the same $1.60 one-zone fare:

The new No. 8 line, which replaces the A&C’s No. 33, serves Bergen Avenue from Journal Square to JFK Boulevard at Van Nostrand Avenue, Old Bergen Road from JFK Boulevard and McAdoo Avenue to Neptune Avenue, and Garfield Avenue from Neptune to the Bayonne City Line at 54th Street. It connects to PATH at Journal Square. Weekday service will run 5:15 a.m. to 8:45 p.m., every 15 minutes during the AM and PM peak and in the mid-day; Saturdays, 5:15 a.m. to 8:42 p.m., every 30 minutes, all day; and Sundays, 5:15 a.m. to 8:41 p.m., every 30 minutes, all day.

The new No. 9 line, replacing the A&C’s No. 31, connects the Montgomery Street corridor from West Side Avenue to Jersey Avenue, and the West Side Avenue corridor from Danforth Avenue to Montgomery Street with the Hudson Bergen Light Rail (West Side Avenue station), and PATH at Grove Street with Newport Mall and downtown Jersey City. It also serves Society Hill and provides the only crosstown bus connection between Journal Square and Communipaw Avenue. Weekday service is from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. with service every 60 minutes all day; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 7:45 p.m., every 60 minutes, all day; and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 7:50 p.m., every 60 minutes, all day.

The new No. 14 line, replacing A&C’s No. 32, connects Journal Square with Society Hill via Sip Avenue, Duncan Avenue and portions of West Side Avenue and Mallory Avenue. It provides the only service across Rt. 440 to the Hudson Mall and Stadium Plaza shopping center. And it connects with the Light Rail’s West Side Avenue station and Journal Square PATH. It will run weekdays, from 7:10 a.m. to 8:33 p.m., every 40 to 45 minutes, all day; Saturdays, 7:15 a.m. to 8:28 p.m., every 40 minutes, all day; and Sundays, 7:15 a.m. to 8:27 p.m., every 40 minutes, all day.

The current NJ Transit No. 80 lines, replacing A&C’s No. 30, provides expanded No. 80 line service, traveling along West Side Avenue from Danforth Avenue to Sip Avenue, and along Sip, from West Side to Journal Square. This line provides connections to the Light Rail’s West Side Avenue Station and Journal Square PATH. Service beginning and ending at Society Hill will operate as the No 80S line. The 80S will run weekdays, 5:39 a.m. to 9 p.m., every 15 to 20 minutes, AM and PM peak, and every 30 minutes mid-day; Saturdays, 5:42 a.m. to 8:29 p.m., every 30 to 40 minutes, all day; and Sundays, 6:15 a.m. to 8:19 p.m., every 60 minutes, all day.

Once full schedule information is finalized, it will be posted on njtransit.com/a-cbus.

Charlene Burke, senior vice president of the West Side Community Alliance, said she hopes that NJ Transit will focus on “frequency” of service, especially during the morning rush-hour when commuters need to get to work on time and during winter when riders have no access to bus shelters against the weather.

Ron Leir has been a journalist since 1972. That includes a 37-year stint as a reporter, copy reader and assistant editor with The Jersey Journal, followed by a decade as a reporter with The Observer in...