By ERIN ROLL
After suspending services in early August due to a 90-percent drop in ridership, DeCamp bus company officials said last week that no end is in sight for the suspension.
“Unfortunately, there is no change in our operating status at this time,” DeCamp representatives said in a statement released Oct. 1.
The stay-at-home orders that resulted from the onset of the pandemic caused DeCamp to halt service on March 28. Bus service resumed on June 8, in the hope that ridership would return as New Jersey and New York began their respective reopening phases. With many commuters still working from home, however, ridership fell from about 7,000 passengers daily pre-COVID to about 400 when the company shut down service on Aug. 7
Company officials said ridership levels are still much too low to reopen.
“New York City ridership by all indications that we monitor has remained extremely depressed, which makes resuming service nearly impossible without some external assistance,” officials said.
The company had received funds under the Paycheck Protection Program to keep employees on the books for 17 weeks. However, it received no funds from the $1.4 billion set aside by the Federal Transportation Authority from the CARES Act. That funding was given to NJ Transit, while none was given to private bus carriers.
The representatives confirmed no targeted date has been set for a possible resumption of service.
Nearly all of DeCamp’s 160 employees have been furloughed since service ended.
The bus company’s Twitter feed has not been updated with service information since Aug. 11. The only posting since that time was an Aug. 27 link to an opinion column on federal aid given to NJ Transit but not private carriers.
With the shutdown, NJ Transit and Coach USA cross-honored DeCamp tickets for the month of August, but they gave no indication of cross-honoring tickets beyond Aug. 31.
DeCamp said it had been appealing to NJ Transit for a portion of the funding that NJ Transit received from the CARES Act.
“There has been no change in the funding request that we have made to NJ Transit, although we continue to talk with them. Similarly, there has been no federal funding made available to the motorcoach industry, the only element in the transportation infrastructure to not receive some federal assistance,” representatives said.
NJ Transit confirmed it was in talks with DeCamp and other carriers, and said the transit agency was supporting the carriers’ efforts to obtain federal funding.
“NJ Transit has supported and continues to support the private carriers’ efforts to obtain emergency relief funding from Congress,” NJ Transit spokesperson Lisa Torbic said. “We have written a letter of support to our federal delegation and briefed them on this issue, and we continue to work with the trade association that represents the private carriers as Congress debates further aid.”
Essex County Freeholder President Brendan Gill sent a letter to Gov. Phil Murphy in August to ask him to seek state and local transportation aid for DeCamp and other private bus carriers. “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.
Private bus carriers account for approximately 35 percent of scheduled bus service in New Jersey, according to the Bus Association of New Jersey.
Montclair-based DeCamp was founded in 1870 as a stagecoach company serving northern New Jersey and New York, and eventually became a charter and commuter bus company.