Commuter Wants NJ Transit To Take Over DeCamp
Op-ed from disgruntled Montclair commuter Elaine Molinaro, who laments the hassles associated with traveling into the city each day
I find there to be several ticketing issues with DeCamp, which is why I rarely use this bus service. DeCamp bus tickets can only be bought at one counter at the Port Authority. DeCamp doesn't participate in the ticket vending machines made available through NJ Transit. The service at the counter is very slow, and I have always had to wait in a long line in order to buy a ticket. Most times I have been there, there is only one ticket agent even though there are two windows where tickets could be sold. I have always wanted to be able to use the many ticket vending machines available on many different floors of the Port Authority to buy a bus ticket to Montclair. They are faster and easier to use than having to stand in line at the one DeCamp ticket counter.
Second, DeCamp bus tickets expire after one month. I have actually boarded a bus with a ticket that had just expired a few days before, and the driver refused to accept it. He made me buy a new ticket on the bus. NJ Transit (as well as other services) offer tickets that don't expire for one year. Why does DeCamp have a policy of bus tickets expiring after one month?
Because of the long line at the ticket counter, I often want to buy tickets in advance and keep them ready for when I am running into the Port Authority just in time to catch the bus. By having to wait in the long line for a ticket, I miss the bus I am trying to catch.
Often, I want to use a combination of NJ Transit trains and DeCamp bus service depending on which company has delays that day. If the trains are delayed, I want to jump on the bus or vice versa. I want to have tickets prepurchased and ready to go when I need them so I don't have to wait on the long line at the counter (as I mentioned above). I can't do this without risk of having the bus tickets expire before I use them, so I rarely, rarely take DeCamp.
Finally, I have encountered a situation where the DeCamp bus driver and his supervisor were unaware of crucial communications sent to commuters that affected my transportation decisions on that day. One day last year, NJ Transit trains were not running during the morning commute due to power lines having fallen on the tracks due to a storm. I am signed up for NJ Transit alert emails (an excellent service to help commuters). I got an email from NJ Transit saying that tickets would be cross-honored on DeCamp.
When I boarded the bus, I showed my NJ Transit train ticket to the bus driver. He told me I had to pay. I told him about the email. He told me I was wrong. I pulled up the email on my blackberry and showed him. He talked to his supervisor on a walkie talkie who said they were not cross-honoring tickets. I was made to buy a ticket, and I was furious. Others on the bus who also had read the email confirmed to the driver of its announcement of the cross-honoring of tickets. I would have waited longer, but I could have gotten a later train. I would have never boarded the bus if I had not gotten that email.
Meanwhile, the driver had taken off while he was talking on his walkie talkie. Once his supervisor wrongly informed the driver that DeCamp was not cross-honoring tickets, the driver pulled over the bus and would not continue until I either paid or got off. I was now a long way down Grove Street from where I boarded, so I had little choice but to pay for the ticket. I sat on the bus fuming and listened to other commuters board and show their NJ Transit tickets only to also be forced to buy a ticket. I complained about this to both NJ Transit and to the DeCamp bus service once I got to the Port Authority. They told me that they were sorry. Some drivers were aparantly unaware of the announcement about cross-honoring tickets. (How come they aren't signed up for NJ Transit alerts? Why did many commuters know about it, but the driver and his supervisor did not?)
DeCamp offered me a free ticket for another bus ride but would not refund my money for the ticket I had been made to buy in error. The free ticket expired in a month before I got the chance to use it, since I had already bought a valid monthly NJ Transit train pass so had no further reason to take the bus that month. It would be great to be able to use a combination of train and bus service to Montclair since commuters often need a back-up due to frequent delays. However, I find that DeCamp makes this almost impossible or very inconvenient for commuters to try to do.
Finally, I would like there to be more awareness between the two companies that a commuter might want to use a combination of bus and train service. I find the trains and buses to often be scheduled at exactly the same times. With only one train or bus per hour to Montclair after rush hour, it would be helpful for them to alternate departure times. If one is in the city after work and needing to go home after 9 p.m. for instance, it would be nice if there were a train or a bus every 15 to 30 minutes. After looking over the current schedules for the #33 and #66 DeCamp buses, they are both scheduled for departures at 9:30 p.m. and 10:45 p.m. Montclair-Booton Line NJ Transit trains are scheduled to depart at 9:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. If one misses the 9:30 p.m. departures by a few minutes, it is a long time to wait.
With more coordination, commuters could have more options for getting home around that time if the 9:30 p.m. train and bus departures to Montclair were scheduled at 9:30 p.m., 9:45 p.m., and 10 p.m., for instance.