DeCamp coming back for ‘limited’ commuter service in June
By TALIA WIENER
This story has been updated to reflect comments from DeCamp's vice president, Jonathan DeCamp.
DeCamp Bus Lines — which suspended its operations in August — is now booking charters and will soon resume some commuter service to New York City.
“After too many months to count, buses are back rolling again,” a message on the DeCamp website said.
Commuter operations are still suspended, but preparations are being made to resume limited service in mid-June. The company is booking charters and its weekly casino service to Wind Creek Bethlehem is running on its regular schedule, according to the website.
Company Vice President Jonathan DeCamp Monday said he didn't have exact dates, but anticipated lines serving Montclair and nearby towns — the No. 33 line between West Caldwell and New York, the No. 44 line between Bloomfield and New York, and the No. 66 line between West Orange and New York — would all return.
The company is based in Montclair.
The bus company halted service in March 2020 after stay-at-home orders were issued at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, then resumed it June 8. But service was suspended indefinitely in August due to a 90% drop in ridership, according to an Oct. 1, 2020 statement by DeCamp officials.
Prior to the pandemic, DeCamp buses carried an average of 6,500 to 7,000 passengers a day. In August 2020, ridership was down to an average of 400 passengers a day, Jonathan DeCamp said at the time.
DeCamp representatives said in August that the company had exhausted all of its available financial resources, including trying to stretch its Paycheck Protection Program funds from eight weeks into 17 weeks.
NJ Transit received $1.4 billion in CARES Act funding, but none of that was passed to private bus carriers. The private carriers argued they should have received about $200 million of those funds, noting the passenger miles they travel each year help determine non-COVID federal funding for NJ Transit. Under longstanding contracts, the private carriers are given free buses instead of subsidies. NJ Transit officials told NJ.com last year they couldn’t pass through that money to private companies without changing those contracts.
Jonathan DeCamp said the company hasn't received any additional funding since then.
Last year, county Commissioner Brendan Gill, who lives in Montclair, sent a letter to Gov. Phil Murphy urging him to support federal funding for private bus companies, including DeCamp.
“The residents of Montclair, Bloomfield, West Orange, and other surrounding communities in Essex County depend on the services of DeCamp. Without reliable commuter and charter transportation service companies, the quality of life for so many of our residents will be severely impacted in a negative fashion,” Gill wrote at the time.
Montclair resident Cynthia Kitay, who has been using DeCamp for more than 20 years, said the company’s bus lines allow her to visit friends, see shows and go to doctor appointments without having to rely on inconsistent train schedules.
“Sometimes I’m in the city and I want to get home, but I can’t because there are train delays or the station is packed with people,” Kitay said. “I have an alternative.”
Montclair residents looking to use mass transit can currently use the NJ Transit rail service along the Morris and Essex and Montclair-Boonton lines. Additionally, NJ Transit bus No. 191 to and from New York serves Montclair on weekdays.
In state, NJ Transit buses Nos. 28 and 29 to and from Newark serve areas of Montclair, including sections of Bloomfield Avenue.
— Includes previous reporting by Erin Roll
An earlier version of this post misstated Jonathan DeCamp's title.