By LAUREN PEACOCK
For Montclair Local
Ridership on DeCamp buses remains even lower than when the service shut down during the coronavirus pandemic — but the company’s president says there are signs of growth.
Note: This story updates an earlier post, with new ridership figures.
DeCamp buses resumed limited service to and from New York City June 14, after shutting down in August of 2000. Prior to the pandemic, running a more complete schedule, the company saw about 6,500 to 7,000 passengers a day, DeCamp officials 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.
In the company’s first week back, DeCamp averaged 165 riders a day, company Vice President Jonathan DeCamp said. But Monday, June 31, there were 230 passengers, he said.
“It’s promising and it will take a little more time until we get back to where we need to be but each week we will continue to grow,” Jonathan DeCamp said.
He said once ridership rebounds, the company would add more services and routes.
“New York City is starting to open again and we’re focused on providing transportation for people looking to go from Montclair to NYC,” Jonathan DeCamp said.
Last week, Jonathan DeCamp said the service was lighter than he’d expected — he originally said the bus company saw 165 riders in all during its first three days back, but clarified Tuesday 165 was an average for the first week.
“We were hoping it would be a little higher, but people have to see the buses in service,” Jonathan DeCamp 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 N.Y.C.”
Only routes 33, 44 and 66 (see their schedules at the links) — serving stops in and around Montclair — are reopened, all going to and from New York City. The buses run only on weekdays, during the morning and afternoon commutes.
Jonathan DeCamp said he hopes the service is part of a return to more things opening up, and a sense of normalcy.
“It’s great to be out there again. Our drivers are happy to be back,” he said.
On Tuesday, June 15, bus driver Chris, who declined to give his last name, said ridership was low but seemed to be slowly picking up.
“It’s only the second day,” he said. “The most people I had on one ride were 12 for a morning bus into N.Y.C. 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. 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 that other than Paycheck Protection funds, the company hasn’t received any other additional funding.
The company is based in Montclair.