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 have often wished that New Jersey Transit would take over DeCamp Bus Lines or begin providing bus service to Montclair for the following reasons.

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.  

Scott Norvell March 27, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Decamp is one of the most archaic companies i have seen in my entire life. It's like something out of the early 1970s in the way it functions and (presumably) is managed. It's what happens when you have a monopoly (just like public schools!). There is so much more they could do in terms of customer relations and communications. (Flyers taped to buses as the only notice of service changes? Seriously?) No effort to communicate via email or even text. A simple investment of a couple hundred bucks a bus and a couple grand development would give them an app that would allow smartphone equipped customers to see EXACTLY where their bus is via GPS. And the ticket system? Unreal. A credit card of sorts that can be swiped at the bus entrance and refilled would be lovely. Hell, even a monthly ticket option would be nice. Then we wouldn't have to interact with what must the surliest bunch of drivers on the planet. I feel like saying to the guy ... "I get it. You hate your life. I sympathize, but please don't take it out on me. It's not my fault." I can't tell whether DeCamp is greedy or inept or their margins are just so thin that they cant invest or what, but if ever there were a business ripe for disruption it's the bus service between Montclair and NY is it. How many of up would pay an extra three bucks each way for onboard wifi, decent seats, etc? If Bolt can do it between DC and NY, then why can't they do it between Montclair and NYC?
mandy March 27, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Buy your tickets here in Montclair. Ticket window problem solved.
montclairdad March 27, 2012 at 09:10 PM
The DeCamp employees are EASILY the most miserable lot of workers I've dealt with in 25 years living in the metro NY area. It's not even close. The one guy that was pleasant doesn't even work for them anymore. The operation is a disgrace and if they had any pride they'd feel ashamed about it - but it's obvious they do not. Great article.
John Lee March 27, 2012 at 10:53 PM
I'm surprised at how many times the DeCamp busses take out cars or pedestrians at the corner of Valley Road and Lorraine Avenue. If their customer service is anything like their driving y'all got some serious problems.
montclair-ed March 28, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Mandy, My company pays for my travel through a debit/credit card that is refilled every month. Unfortunately, none of the vendors in Montclair will accept that type of payment for DeCamp tickets. They claim "DeCamp policy". So I am forced to purchase at the Port Authority. Ticket Window problem NOT solved.
STAN CHARLES March 28, 2012 at 01:35 AM
This article is written by a grumpy commuter that wants his discounts but without the accompanying terms. If you want a ticket that lasts a year, buy individual bus tickets. Yes,they cost more, but they last longer. A monthly Decamp pack (40 tickets) does not expire for 60 days. With NJT, you either use it within the 30 days or you lose the benefit of that bargain. You could say that NJT penalizes those that do not commute into the city 5 days a week. I have been a Decamp customer for more than 10 years and rarely have I waited on a line to buy tickets at the Port Authority. Plan ahead - buy tickets when you are at the PA during off peak hours and avoid the ticket windows on Mondays.
Kyle Martinowich March 28, 2012 at 01:44 PM
If it is so poor, why do people use it? Probably because they are less inclined to care about poor customer service or ticket pricing considering the end product..... Getting from "Point A" to "Point B" as quickly and safely as possible at a equitable price. It is at worst, on par with NJ Transit(Bus/Rail) or better when it comes to being "on-time" and having less large scale problems which cause delay. We need more options, you want to talk about Monopoly's, look at NJ Transit Rail service.
Elaine Molinaro March 28, 2012 at 01:45 PM
I wrote the article and only want to criticize accurately. So, I took the time to call DeCamp this morning to check facts about expiration dates of tickets. Stan Charles is right about the expiration dates. Here are the facts I obtained: single tickets expire after 1 year. A 10 pack of tickets expire after 30 days. A 40 pack of tickets expire after 60 days. I admit to wanting to use bus service as a back-up when train service is delayed so I am not as familiar with the details of the service. I wanted to buy a group of tickets in advance to keep on hand and didn't realize that I was sold a 10 pack of discount tickets. I will be sure to ask for a full price single ticket in the future if I decide to try to use DeCamp service again. Thanks for the clarification.
Tracey Stephens March 28, 2012 at 02:45 PM
I stopped taking DeCamp buses after too many times of boarding the bus at Port Authority when the bus stank of cigarette smoke. The drivers apparently take their smoking breaks in the bus before passengers board. Disgusting!
James Riley March 28, 2012 at 08:56 PM
I'm writing up a response that explains all of this and I'll send you the link once it's finished.
Shelley Emling (Editor) March 28, 2012 at 09:11 PM
That would be great James.. and you can also reach me directly at Shelley@patch.com.
Robert November 01, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Not that long ago, DeCamp was a premier bus company. If a bus was full, they had another bus waiting. You very rarely had to stand. Now, they only run one bus; and, pack people in like sardines. Not long ago, the DeCamp drivers were the most cordial bus operators I had ever seen. Today, they are grumpy and disgruntled workers. DeCamp does appear to have the best maintained fleet, compared to Community lines and NJ Transit. I, too, cannot understand why DeCamp tickets expire in 30 days. They used to be valid for 1 year or 6 months. I use to take the bus into the city on weekends; but, very rarely do now; since, I cannot keep a bunch of tickets available. When the bus runs every hour, you have to get to the Port Authority a half hour early to purchase the ticket at the one window that is open on weekends, which services DeCamp and a couple of other bus companies. What happened to the DeCamp Bus Company of 10 years ago? It is almost as though the company and the drivers have a death wish; and, want to drive everyone onto the NJ Transit Montclair-Boonton line.
Ivette November 04, 2012 at 05:38 AM
Being that NJ Transit Montclair-Boonton line is down due to Sandy, where can I buy a ticket for DeCamp in Montclair? Their site is down so I wasn't able to access any information. Seems this bus line is my only option to get to work in the city. Thanks!
Nilda Torres February 06, 2013 at 12:25 AM
I boycotted Decamp completed. When I first moved to the New Jersey area, I experienced and witnessed many rude drivers with little to no respect for passengers. The last straw happened when I was sitting in the front seat on the next to last bus of the night. The next bus was one hour away. A woman came running up to the bus just as he was closing the doors in her face and she asked to board. He laughed in her face and pulled away. That woman had to wait another hour for her bus. That is the type of service that Decamp provides and from that day, I don't care how late I am, how far from another bus I am. I have done that. I will never ride that bus again. Those drivers have nerve trolling for passengers but if njtransit pulled what they did there would be complaints filed. I hope that nj transit or some other company takes them over and then things may change. If the employees behave that way and are allowed to do so then I suspect that organization is putrid from the top down.
homer simpson May 08, 2013 at 01:50 PM
Often the bus just doesn't come. Generally they are consistently 5-10 minutes late. But like today the bus did not come. Additionally they do not send more buses. Having used lakeland bus and being used to drivers calling more buses when it fills up, I was shocked. Additionally problems/delays are mostly not communicated at all. With Sandy or the snowstorms when train were shut down you often had to wait hours. The ticket agents are talking on their phones and do not pay attention at all.....totally unprofessional. They are also very slow and frequently have to fix their errors. There is no excuse for not using the ticket vending machines. Additionally the expiration of 10 trip tickets is ridiculous. NJT and Lakeland to not expire near as much. What a scummy company de camp is..........
AmandaC May 30, 2013 at 11:45 AM
Someone needs to contact decamp directly with these issues. Who is in charge of this mess? The buses never come, the woman who "directs" the buses at port authority is RUDE, their 1 month ticket expiration policy might as well be theft and to top it all, my mother just got in a bus accident yesterday on route 3, because the driver wasn't paying attention and rear ended the car in front of them, causing a 4 car pile up and one trip to the emergency room. Not to mentioned all of the broken down buses I have been on over the past 5 years. I take the train for the most part, but every so often I try to give Decamp another chance because it is cheaper and drops me off at my house, however I always seem to be clenching my teeth in aggravation every time I do decide to ride with them. It's a shame.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »