By LAUREN PEACOCK
For Montclair Local
DeCamp buses carried just 165 passengers in their first three days back in service this week, the company’s vice president said.
Prior to the pandemic, running a more complete schedule, the company saw about 6,500 to 7,000 passengers a day, DeCamp officials have previously said. In August 2020, ridership was down to about 400 customers a day — low enough to prompt a suspension of service that lasted 10 months.
But company vice president Jonathan DeCamp said he expects ridership to increase soon.
“The ridership was lighter than I thought it was going to be. We were hoping it would be a little higher but people have to see the buses in service,” he said. “It’s basically a 45-foot moving billboard. Once people see the buses around town they’ll remember DeCamp is a viable option to get to NYC.
Only Routes 33, 44, and 66 — serving stops in and around Montclair — are re-opened, all going to and from New York City. The routes currently set cover just weekdays, during the morning and afternoon commutes. They first came back Monday.
Jonathan DeCamp said the company isn’t yet looking to add more routes.
“As ridership continues to build we’ll look at adding service to different routes,” he said.
Jonathan DeCamp he hopes the service is part of a return to more things opening up, and a a sense of normalcy.
“It’s great to be out there again. Our drivers are happy to be back,” DeCamp said.
On Tuesday, bus driver Chris said ridership was low but seemed to be slowly picking up. He declined to give his last name.
“It’s only the second day. The most people I had on one ride were 12 for a morning bus into NYC,” he said. “I had seven people this morning out of west orange. I’m expecting more people to ride over the next couple of days once they hear we are back. I’m an employee of DeCamp, so it’s good to have work again.”
DeCamp — founded in the 19th century as a stagecoach line — has long served as an alternative to NJ Transit’s train stops in Montclair and its area bus service. Montclair residents can 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.
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 said last year they couldn’t pass through that money to private companies without changing those contracts.
Jonathan DeCamp has told Montclair Local other than Paycheck Protection funds, the company hasn’t received any additional funding since then.
The company is based in Montclair.