NJ Transit is making over network of local bus routes and needs your ideas

Posted Jan 25, 2021

NJ Transit launched its redesign of 38 bus routes that radiate from Newark to destinations as far away as Somerville, Hackensack and Parsippany, starting with an online survey and the beginning of meetings with community members.

For those who don’t have access to computers or the internet, NJ Transit will directly reach out to community and faith-based groups in the greater Newark area with the support of the city to better understand their members needs, said Jim Smith, an agency spokesman.

NJ Transit also plans to work with educational institutions, businesses and community leaders to help identify needs for the bus network and the best way to connect with their constituents, he said.

A draft of the service recommendations are anticipated in late spring 2021, Smith said.

The start of the redesign answers a call by transit advocates for a “clean sheet of paper” makeover of bus routes that carried 156,000 people before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

“NewBus Newark” is a new initiative to redesign the 38 bus routes that radiate from the the greater Newark area like a spider web.

The first steps started Monday with an online rider survey about where passengers go, destinations they ride to, and a website about the project at njtransit.com/newbus. Later this week, representatives will meet with regional stakeholders to start the process of designing a new local bus network that will serve the community best.

The redesign begins to answer what transit advocates asked for in 2019, a “clean sheet of paper” bus network redesign. In Sept. 2019, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and Regional Plan Association released a plan that called for making over bus routes as one of several recommendations.

That plan, A New Ride for New Jersey, said some routes haven’t seen major change since NJ Transit was started in 1979. It suggested NJ Transit should better use data and metrics to redesign them. Copies of the bus report were sent to NJ Transit, Gov. Phil Murphy and legislative leaders.

“NJ Transit’s announcement is a big step toward modernizing the state’s public transit system,” said Kevin Garcia, Tri-State New Jersey bus program coordinator. “Bus riders have been suffering for years with outdated bus routes that do not match today’s commuter needs, unreliable service, and a disjointed network that is not fully integrated with other modes of transit.

On July 15, NJ Transit hired Transportation Management & Design, Inc. of Carlsbad, California, for $580,706 to conduct the bus system redesign. TMD’s website also cited the need for redesign of a system that has remained relatively static for decades, despite revitalization in downtown Newark and significant changes and growth in the surrounding cities.

NJ Transit officials said changing ridership patterns caused by the coronavirus pandemic made this a good time to reexamine the bus system. During the early pandemic, NJ Transit changed schedules and equipment to meet the commuting demands of essential workers who were relying on buses, especially in Newark.

The NewBus Newark initiative includes a detailed performance analysis of the 38 local bus routes, assessment of the current transit market and using these findings alongside community input to design a new intrastate bus network for the Newark region.

This is just the beginning. NJ Transit’s 2030, 10-Year Strategic Plan specifically identifies redesigning the bus network to better align service with demand and improve service quality, Smith said.

“This supports the plan’s goal to power a stronger and fairer New Jersey for all communities,” he said. “This initiative is anticipated to be the initial phase of future bus network redesign.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-01-26 04:28:27 -0800