Jersey City commuters who depend on public transit to get to work, shop and more will be facing hardships soon when another independent bus line leaves the driving to someone else.

A & C Bus Corp., which operates four routes through different parts of the city, had advised NJ Transit – from whom it leases its vehicles – that it will be shutting down service October 31. The indepently-owned company has been in business for nearly a century.

Thus far, NJ Transit hasn’t committed to taking over the job and no other potential carriers have stepped up.

A West Side resident name Sandra said, “These are the only bus routes in our community, available to reach businesses, schools, healthcare facilities, supermarkets, shopping malls and connections to rail stations in and out of NYC...we must, collectively stop this keeping our community accessible.”

The City Council of Jersey City this week is expected to go on record urging the governor, state legislators, NJ Transit and the state Department of Transportation to “take any and all action necessary to ensure the service provided by (A&C) continue to operate and service Jersey City and all residents of Hudson County ….”

Routes run by A&C are: Society Hill (No. 30), Montgomery/West Side (No. 31), 440 Shopper (No. 32) and Bergen Avenue (No. 33).

A resolution the council figures to adopt Wednesday refers to the areas serviced by those bus lines as “transit-poor parts of the city” and are, therefore, a “vital public service to the community (they) serve.”

The resolution goes on to say, “The entire West Side of the city relies on buses as there are limited Light Rail stations and no PATH stations” and that all four lines “provide residents with transportation that gives them the ability to safely and conveniently commute to work, connect to other transit hubs within Jersey City, visit friends and family, and go shopping for groceries and everyday necessities.”

A&C bus lines have accommodated an estimated 200,000 riders per month, according to city estimates.

Representatives of two West Side community groups readily agreed the need for the bus service is real.

Luz Guzman, a representative of Friends of Lincoln Park, said: “We’re hoping someone steps in and either fills the gap or tries to get the company to stay a bit longer until a permanent replacement can be found. We’ve got to find a solution.”

The bus service has been a vital link for folks who shop at the Hudson Mall on Rt. 440 and for those at Society Hill and elsewhere bound for Journal Square to access the PATH trains, she said.

Asked if Via, the city-contracted transportation service, could be a practical alternative, Guzman said that’s not a good option for many senior citizens who don’t have or use credit cards.

Charlene Burke, vice president of the West Side Community Alliance, said: “We’re disappointed in the city for not having an alternative plan. Even if they said, ‘we need time to figure this out,’ (in the meantime, they could arrange to) have a bus line for people to get to their jobs.”

A decade ago, Burke said, when WSCA did a marketing study for the West Side Special Improvement District, the group discovered that “45% of our population didn’t own cars” and consequently depended on public transit – “buses in particular” – to get from one place to another within the city.

Burke is hoping that next month the Alliance can organize a meeting with Mayor Steven Fulop and state officials to strategize on how to fill the transportation gap in West Side. “With all the federal money flowing down (for transit infrastructure), why have we not thought about long-term transportation strategies?”

Meanwhile, Ward A Councilmember Denise Ridley said that she’s partnered with Ward B Councilmember Mira Prinz-Arey and Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’Dea in talks with NJ Transit “trying to get them to offer assistance, but as of a few weeks ago, they hadn’t provided anything solid.”

O’Dea speculated that NJ Transit, the state’s public transportation corporation, may be calculating whether it can afford to take on the responsibility of running the A&C routes – including the cost and maintenance of buses, payroll and so forth before making a commitment to take over the lines.

In a statement released August 9, the company said: “NJ Transit is assessing the impacts of A&C’s disappointing decision to discontinue bus service in Jersey City. Part of NJ Transit’s assessment is identifying the alternatives already available on existing NJ Transit bus service (such as the No. 80 line that runs through the city’s West Bergen area), which is underway.

“NJ Transit has already spoken to many stakeholders, including the Jersey City mayor, and will continue to work with elected officials and communities, as well as private carriers, to investigate potential solutions. However, NJ Transit may not have the resources necessary to replace all of the private bus services that are being discontinued.”

In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic raged, A&C scaled back its operations on all four lines and, one year prior, the company ended service on another line that took Greenville passengers to Downtown destinations, all attributed to financial losses.

Recalling those circumstances, Ridley said “a lot of the riders affected were seniors who were going to Shop-Rite” and, as a stop-gap measure, the city arranged for the Health Department to provide shuttles to that location and to the Newport mall.

“That’s part of the reason we moved forward with Via,” Ridley said. “We’re trying to add in some transportation options where we can.”

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...