Montclair’s DeCamp Bus Lines ending commuter services to New York
DeCamp Bus Lines, which began as a stagecoach line in 1870, will be ending its commuter services to New York as of Friday, April 7, the Montclair-based company said Monday.
The seven affected commuter bus lines, which transport Montclair area residents to and from Manhattan daily, are 33, 66/66R, 44, 99, 88, 32 and 100. DeCamp will continue to operate daily charter, shuttle and casino services, the company said.
While seemingly sudden, Jonathan DeCamp, vice president and chief operating officer, said the change was primarily due to the impact of post-pandemic workstyle changes.
“It's not economically feasible,” DeCamp said. “The routes are losing money on a daily basis.”
In late March 2020, DeCamp Bus Lines suspended all its services when the COVID-19 pandemic required quarantines and travel restrictions. As people adapted to the “new normal” of the coronavirus, DeCamp Bus Lines resumed services, only to shut down again.
Although the bus lines are carrying more passengers now than when they first returned from the pandemic, DeCamp said, the company has never regained the ridership it once had.
“It's never even come close to returning completely,” he said.
Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, DeCamp said the company carried, on average, 6,500 to 6,800 passengers on a typical weekday. Now, it averages 1,250 to 1,300 passengers daily.
The company said that monthly ridership has averaged 20% or less than pre-COVID averages, and cites work-from-home, telecommuting and flex schedules as reasons for the drop-off.
“Without financial assistance, we can’t absorb those losses,” DeCamp said.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, DeCamp said, private motorcoach carriers and private commuter coaches relied on paycheck-to-paycheck protection programs to keep employees working, as well as some assistance from the state of New Jersey. This, DeCamp said, has allowed the company to provide service up until this point.
“Right now, I'm staring at the fact that it's going to be the end of the line unless there’s any financial assistance,” DeCamp said.
Passengers received news of the ending of service when they arrived at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York on Monday morning and drivers made the announcement. The drivers also asked the passengers to reach out to their state and federal government representatives to see if any aid for the company can be found. The company said the union that represents the drivers had asked them to make the announcements.
Mark Jones, president of Local 1614 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents DeCamp's 50 drivers, said the union got word of the company's decision. "It was very disappointing," he said.
He added, "At this time we're asking the public to reach out to the politicians to get them to have the state help fund the company or draw up a contract where DeCamp runs the service for New Jersey Transit."
Chellie Overbey, receptionist for DeCamp, was taking a huge wave of phone calls at the company's headquarters in Montclair, from longtime customers of the bus company.
"I love my job," said Overbey, who has been working for the company for six years. "I don't know what's next."
She said she had not expected the announcement but that she assumed that it was the result of the hardships the company faced because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Monthly ridership has averaged 20% or less than pre-COVID averages and cited work-from-home, telecommuting and flex schedules as reasons for the drop-off.
DeCamp said it had been able to continue the routes until now with the help of federal and state aid but does not foresee further assistance.
Montclair Councilor-at-Large Peter Yacobellis said that he was shocked to hear the news on Monday morning and that he immediately reached out to his constituents and to Montclair's state and federal representatives.
"While this issue has an acute and harmful impact on Montclair, it is also bigger than Montclair," Yacobellis said in an email to constituents. "Therefore, I'm in the process of reaching out to our state and federal officials to ask for a whole of government approach."
He said he had contacted U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez; U.S. Reps. Mikie Sherrill and Donald Payne Jr.; Gov. Phil Murphy; State Sens. Nia Gill and Richard Codey, State Assembly members Britnee Timberlake, Thomas Giblin and John McKeon.
"While many of us have settled into different routines, I do not believe the philosophical debate on ways of working and ways of commuting for those of us in major metropolitan regions is settled," Yacobellis said. "We don't know what is going to happen with congestion pricing in NYC and many employers in NYC continue to adapt in-office requirements for workers. I believe these broader ways of living and working in the NYC region need time to settle before entire options are taken away from us."
Sherrill said: "My office is monitoring the news regarding the cuts to DeCamp's commuter bus service. We have been in touch with NJ Transit, who assured us that they are working on the problem and an answer to how the gap in service will be addressed. As we learn more, we will be sure to share it on our social media channels."
The company thanked its customers for their support and referred them to njtransit.com for transportation alternatives. Unused, unexpired tickets can be returned to DeCamp for a refund.
Yacobellis said he had been in touch with DeCamp and that refunds can be obtained by sending unused, unexpired tickets and a self-addressed stamped envelope to DeCamp Bus Lines, Attn: Refunds, P.O. 581, Montclair, NJ 07042.